Montana Politics

Burns: The Numbers Keep Falling

The temperature’s not the only thing dropping in Montana.

Despite a massive ad buy in the past few weeks, Conrad Burns hasn’t been able to do much to convince Montana voters that he deserves another term in the Senate. His continuing struggles have his approval rating down in George Bush territory, down to 38 per cent, according to the latest Lee/Mason-Dixon poll.

Brad Coker, the managing director of Mason-Dixon offered an unusual explanation for Burns’ low approval:

“Governors right now are more popular than senators or congressman,” said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. “With some exceptions, state governments by and large are not having problems.

That might make some sense, except that Senator Baucus has an approval rating of 60 per cent, a slight increase over the last two polls. These numbers are not about general dissatisfaction with Congress or national governement; it seems clear they reflect a Montana that is tired of the corruption that seems inextricably linked with Burns and his cronies.

Democrats needs to be careful, though. The article notes that Burns bottomed out at 33 per cent approval in 1994, but still managed to beat Jack Mudd in a landslide. Winning this race, no matter how damaged and ineffective Burns may be, will still be a tremendous struggle.

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  • The ’94 race is worrisome in all sorts of ways. People who claim Morrison is electable cause of money seem to take a rather short view of history. Many of my friends defend Jack Mudd’s character to the end, so I have little doubt about it. But he, like John Morrison, was a city attorney. He got destroyed. In 2000, the favorite who lost was three-time Auditor and self-financing candidate Mark O’Keefe, again well-known and well-liked by his fellow Democrats. The insurgent was the farmer/rancher from the Flathead who nearly surprised Conrad Burns despite receiving only late help from the national party and remaining a lower priority than O’Keefe and Keenan.

    We nominate a city lawyer? Burns eats them for breakfast. If they got their own ethical issues, it’s over.

  • Yeah, I think the Mudd race is really instructive. In fact, over time, I had lost sight of just how badly he was beaten. Burns sure seemed vulnerable then, too. We need to make sure that we have a candidate who can go head to head with Burns. I think Tester is was right on the other day when he suggested that he could do something that Morrison cannot: cut into Burns’ rural base. We need to stop conceding everything east of Great Falls if we want to keep winning elections in this state, and I just don’t see Morrison having much appeal out there, despite the brand new gloves in the commercials.

  • I think my quote in the story may be taken a bit out of context. I’m pretty sure my response that is reported was to a question about “Why is Governor Schweitzer’s approval rating so high?”

    I think the quote was mistakenly dropped into the Burns story. Certainly Baucus and Rehberg have maintained good numbers, but many governors around the country (of both parties) seem to be scoring much higher than the President, Senators and House members.

    In 1994, voter dissatisfaction cut all the way down to the state and local level. So far in this cycle, it seems directed mostly at Washington (at least in most states — there are a few exceptions).

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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