One of the selling points of the Gianforte campaign has been the narrative that, as a former successful businessman, he will run the state like he ran his companies, hiring only the best people to get the job done. Putting aside the fact that running state government has very little in common with being the CEO of a company, the narrative has taken a pretty serious hit in the past few months, as his campaign has floundered on a sea of misrepresentations and mishaps that would sink even an experienced candidate, raising a simple question: if Greg Gianforte can’t manage a handful of people running his campaign, how in the world can he manage state government?
Take the latest campaign flap, in which the Gianforte campaign wrongly (and repeatedly) claimed that Mr. Gianforte had received the endorsement of the Montana Wood Products Association when he had not. Alone, it would be an embarrassing story for a campaign, but in their refusal to admit their mistake, the Gianforte people made the story go national.
Told that Gianforte had not been endorsed, the campaign doubled down and said that it had been—and still hasn’t corrected the record on their web site. So much for being a tech guru. Or honest. As of today, they still maintain—despite the MWPA’s disavowal, that their candidate has been endorsed by the group.
The MWPA non-endorsement is only the most recent in a string of poor strategic and communication decisions from the Gianforte campaign.
The Gianforte campaign claimed that Sanders County officials were upset about a wildlife management area being developed in their area. They were wrong in every aspect. Not only did Sanders County want the area, but commissioners had written a letter of support essential to its development. The campaign claim was so dishonest that the Sanders County commissioners (hardly a group of liberals) asked the candidate to “correct the record.” Oops.
Caught in their misstatement, Gianforte claimed that it was a complaint from Mineral County. Unfortunately, the commissioners there also said it wasn’t true, before Gianforte spokesman Aaron Flint made himself unavailable for comment. Double oops.
Of course, the Gianforte campaign also lied about Facebook, claiming that the company passed on Montana for a data center because of Montana’s tax climate. Then, even though both Facebook and the executive Gianforte spoke to stated that the Gianforte claim was false, the candidate and his spokesman stood by their assertion, all evidence and reason to the contrary.
They released a robocall from the campaign that mispronounced the name of our capital city, for God’s sake.
They claimed that Governor Bullock was hostile to tech jobs and that Mr. Gianforte would encourage web and other high-tech jobs in Montana,before and while spending hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars on out-of-state tech firms to produce videos and web sites that could have been produced better and more cost-effectively here in state.
Worst of all, the Gianforte campaign has so badly mishandled their candidate’s decision to block public access to a river near his property that it’s all but certain to remain a campaign issue until November. They bizarrely continue to claim that Gianforte never filed a lawsuit when it’s clear he did, continue to misunderstand that easements are public right-of-ways, not private land, and continue to deflect responsibility rather than admitting that their candidate was in the wrong. It takes a special kind of campaign staff to make a serious wound a mortal one, but the Gianforte staff seems to have done just that.
I can’t wait to see how badly his team fumbles the inevitable press story about Gianforte’s prior support for a sales tax and outsourcing jobs from Montana because executives making hundreds of thousands of dollars can’t be expected to pay taxes here.
Unlike Governor Bullock, who has a term filled with evidence of his successful work, Mr. Gianforte has no experience that would suggest he would be effective as governor. His campaign is his audition, and given his inability to hire and/or manage people who can make an effective case for his candidacy for governor, it’s hard to imagine that he could hire the right people to help him manage the state. That audition is even more important when you have a candidate who refuses to take a position on a dizzying array of issues that will affect Montanans for the next four years.
Demonizing refugee children and vaguely promising to cut taxes is enough, it seems to win 3/4 of the GOP primary vote against faux opposition, but it’s certainly not proof that Mr. Gianforte can govern the state. What this campaign shows so far is a candidate with no vision, no strategy, and almost no honesty, hardly what the people of Montana want.