The more I hear about the GOP primary for governor in 2012, the more clear it becomes that Rick Hill has one enormous advantage going into the race. It’s not his lead in early establishment money nor the fact that his campaign manager keeps editing his Wikipedia page to read like a press release, nor even the fact that Hill’s indiscretions have long faded from the public memory. Hill’s biggest advantage? The huge number of GOP candidates with little credibility or connections entering the race.
Sure, Hill’s going to have to spend more money than he’d like to avoid a Kelleher for Senate or Driscoll for House debacle happening in the primary, but it seems likely that Hill will be seen as the adult, Montana candidate in a GOP field dominated by candidates who live on the fringe, either ideologically or geographically.
What will be most interesting, however, is watching Hill navigate the choppy waters of trying to establish himself as a Tea Party candidate when his record is at odds which some significant elements of their agenda. The large number of far right candidates might protect Hill from losing to one of them, but it could also push him farther to the right in a contentious primary.
After this embarrassment of a legislative session, Hill might not be quite so eager to be associated with the TEA Party as he thought when he announced his candidacy.
It should be an interesting show.