There’s been a lot discussion in the media the past few days about Jon Tester’s growing momentum in the campaign to unseat Senator Burns. I think a lot of the national analysis is still pretty superficial, focusing on the assumption that voters are turning away from Conrad Burns because of his connection to Casino Jack Abramoff, rather than coming to support Jon Tester’s candidacy. It’s a misguided, but common opinion:
Ramussen argues that Burns is in a lot of trouble, adding :
But, even though most Americans think the Abramoff lobbying scandal was little more than business as usual, Burns close ties to the convicted lobbyists has clearly hurt Burns in Montana."
The Washingon Post’s Chris Cillizaa says :
We have continue to believe that Burns’ late response to allegations of wrongdoing in connection with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff have damaged him deeply in the minds of voters.
Human Events online blames Burns’ woes on Abramoff:
Conrad Burns, who had a surprisingly tough time withDemocrat Brian Schweitzer in 2000, has been hampered by his ties to Jack Abramoff and is down to John Tester 50% to 43% in the latest Rasmussen poll .
Look, Conrad Burn’s ties to Jack Abramoff are a reason to vote against him. He has undoubtedly sold out his Senate seat–and cheaply . But Abramoff doesn’t explain either the general sense of dissatisfaction Montanans are showing with Burns and failed Republican policies, or the excitement that ordinary Montanans are feeling about the Tester campaign.
I’ve been privately critical of the Tester campaign for not being more aggressive about making the Burns-Abramoff connection, but the strategy is sound. Allowing Tester to focus on his positive message about empowering ordinary people to improve their lives while Burns and the NRSC wallow in the filth of attack ads, has only made Tester’s candidacy stronger.
As long as the national media and national Republicans see this race as an election about Jack Abramoff, the better off Jon Tester will be. When he is elected in November, it will be because he offered a better plan for Montana, not because voters believed that Conrad Burns is a corrupt politician–even though he is.