Governor Schweitzer on Steve Daines and John Walsh

Republicans and the literally dozens of supporters of John Bohlinger are giddy today after Governor Schweitzer told MSNBC that if the election for US Senate were held today, Steve Daines would win. Despite the odd jubilation from conservatives, I think John Walsh and his campaign would say the same thing today.  Daines has had a term in Congress,  a failed run for Lt. Governor, and a lot of generous news coverage—he’s a better-known figure than Walsh, which makes it obvious that he’d be in the lead.

But the election isn’t being held today—and Governor Schweitzer knows that. John Walsh has raised the resources necessary to promote his record and challenge Steve Daines, to expose his record of outsourcing jobs and voting for budgets that would devastate the lives of many people here in Montana. No one thinks this will be an easy race for  Walsh, but those who assume Steve Daines will win now might want to ask Denny Rehberg and Rick Berg how they are enjoying their terms in the Senate.

Schweitzer also pointed out a key factor that will hurt Daines: the more Montanans know about him, the less likely they will be to vote for him. Citing the study that found Daines to be the most conservative member of Congress ever from Montana, Schweitzer made it clear that Montana voters are unlikely to be impressed when they learn Daines’s priority: protecting the wealth of the richest Americans.

John Walsh has a challenge on his hands in this race, but his record is clearly that of a person who won’t back down in difficult odds, as Schweitzer made clear in the interview.

A related element of the story was Schweitzer’s suggestion that the Democratic primary is “too close to call.” My guess is that’s either wishful thinking on the Governor’s part or a sense of obligation to his former Republican running mate because the truth is that neither John Bohlinger nor Dirk Adams are competitive in this primary, much less in the general.

Though it may pain some to imagine money matters in politics, money matters in politics. And neither John Bohlinger nor Dirk Adams have raised any, showing just how little support either has.

According to KRTV, neither Bohlinger nor Adams managed to get their first quarter FEC reports in on time. In fact, both are facing fines from the FEC for their failure to report in a timely fashion. While both offered excuses for their missing reports, the truth is that late campaign reports either suggest incompetence or having raised no money. I can’t speak to the first, but neither campaign raised enough money to be considered remotely competitive, with Adams claiming $18,000 raised and Bohlinger not even answering the question.

We’ve certainly discussed the negative influence of money in politics, but it’s also a measure of support. That Walsh’s opponents have raised almost no cash suggests that they’re not attracting supporters or spreading a message that resonates. When you repudiate your entire political history to score points, that tends to happen.

This primary is not too close to call. The Democrats have a choice between a candidate whose record, political support, and yes, fundraising, make him a viable opponent for the deep-pocketed Steve Daines or two other candidates who simply can’t win in November.

Governor Schweitzer is absolutely right: given the real challenge Democrats will have facing off against the threat of Steve Daines in the Senate, we need to select a candidate who can take the fight to Daines, expose his record, and challenge him. John Walsh is the only candidate in the Democratic primary who can do that, and the candidate Democrats would do well to support.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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  • Instead of saying the race is too close to call, I’d say it’s way too early to call it, Daines’ current lead in the polls notwithstanding. Primary Election Day is still a month away (although early voting begins in 12 days), and the general election is half a year in the future. That gives Walsh time to bring up his positives, and Daines time to bring up his negatives.

    I agree that the chance that Bohlinger or Adams will win the primary is perishingly small, on the order of winning the Irish Sweepstakes. I thank them for running as Democrats, however lately they may have come to Jesus. And I’m confident they’ll vote for the winner of the Democratic primary (something I wish I could say about John Driscoll).

  • This is classic issue-free politics, horse race stuff. You’ve said nothing on where any candidate stands on any issue – it doesn’t matter. You only want your guy to win. You’ve even besmirched candidates who don’t raise big bucks as not having a resonant message. You equate the ability to raise money and issues, thereby shutting out half the voters, the ones who are too smart to vote.


      • p.s. And to governor Schweitzer, I know that you read these blogs, so, please give me a call some time. I would love to talk to you. 868-3808. Thanks.


    • You’re right, actually. The Bohlinger campaign is bankrupt.

      This is a subtle point, so I’ll type slowly. A candidate who had support would be able to raise money from supporters. Not large donations, but a collection of small $25 donations from people who believe in the candidate’s message.

      It’s quite fair to equate a lack of financial support with a lack of support. Do you know how many individuals donated to John Bohlinger in the last quarter of 2013? I’ll give you a hint: the number is smaller than the total number of smug comments you post on blogs in a given day.

      • This is, by the way, just another piece of political hanky panky – the $25 donation. They are a pain in the ass, candidates don’t want them except due to bookkeeping and reporting, but they are useful in creating the illusion of broad support. Here’s how it works:

        Walsh (Daines, all of them) need big financial backers to be able to paint the TV with expensive and manipulative 30-second spots that say nothing very professionally. These big backers want something in return, bills, policies, access to the commons, freedom from regulation, looking the other way at criminal behavior … that sort of thing. Much of this is implicit, but I would imagine some of it is explicit but never written down. Big money is not stupid, and does not throw money at the wall hoping for a good result.

        So Walsh agrees that he’ll perform certain duties, and in return receives $300,000 in bundled contributions from, say, the timber lobby, Tester’s sugar daddy. They also agree to funnel another $1 million in private ads not directed by the campaign, and hold in reserve even more for a last minute punch if needed.

        So that’s $2.3 million from one source, $300K reportable. Walsh is now owned by timber, just like Tester, but he’s a man of low caliber, so that’s a given. But suppose he also receives 1,000 contributions of $25 from silly little grandmas and teachers who expect nothing in return, and get it. That’s $25,000, peanuts, chump change.

        Here’s what Walsh says: “99% of my campaign contributions comes from small donations.” And he’s right. He’s lying, of course, or as that famous movies said, it’s accurate, but not true.

        That is why candidates want $25 contributions. It gives them political cover for the big bribes coming in the back door.

        Thus endeth the lesson.

        • …fascinating, Mark, but not relevant to the point at hand. Bohlinger has neither kind of donation. He doesn’t have big money support, but that’s hardly a virtue considering he doesn’t seem to have any small money support, either.

          • I don’t care. It’s all a shiny steaming pile of corruption, and the distinctions you manage to create between the various criminals, chrlatans, fourth-raters and bought zombies is fascinating. It’s your behavior, PW, that is in need of further study.

  • Oh sweet JESUS! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Lord, for sending us Clivescum Scumby! He is a gift from heaven! This saintly man is what the Pube/Teat party is ALL about! He’s a one man wrecking crew! Thank you, Jesus! For sending this moronic inbred Mormon our way! And his fat little piggy daughter and his pork chop sons are what Murca is all about. FAT MORON MORMON INBREDS!

    Pur RAZE vitory!

    where in the world is craigy and his ceement JAYsus crowd to defend this godly man?????

    • This one goes out to Clivescum Scumby and all his inbred poly pigamist chillin’!, es PECIALLY his fat little pork chop daughter who prolly caught the eye of p-ASS-tor Bulbdim of the church of inbred morons and mlisha! HEY, who could blame the good p-ASS-tor if he partook of a little strange?? Not me! She IS an attractive lil’ pork chop after all! And ‘sides, we PAID for all that beef by subsidizing ol’ Clivescum with OUR public lands! His cows AND his chillin’ grow fat and sassy offn’ our public lands! I got no problem with that. ‘sides, I find fat lil’ pork chop morom gals attractive!

  • I listen to this a couple of times. Brians little video taped speech…and Nowhere does Brian say that Daines is the winner in November. I would like to make another point, Brian said Rehberg looked like he had it in the bag in 2012. the Operative word is “Looked” because Rehberg lost months after Brian made that soulful comment 2 years ago.

    Its all speculation at this point. and the GOP are listening to the same sounds, before romney lost his ass as well.

    One last point here and Im through for the evening. I notice that all the pollsters who were so lost about 2012, and dead wrong are still following the same algorithms today as 2012. The same kind of polling that was so wrong with their results, is the same they are using today! Cant wait for November because we are gonna see the same results.

    The GOP have pissed off the Gays, Hispanics, women, this year figuring they wont vote. I say they are dead wrong….And Bundy, will he just added the Black vote to that mix, I think we will win this hands down!

  • This is in no way an endorsement, just an observation. I think Adams’ showing in the primary may surprise some of the pundits. His opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline and support of NREPA is gaining traction with enviros. Keep in mind that Missoula County has more Democratic voters than any county in Montana and Adams’ message is playing well here (and in Bozeman, too). Whether these voters actually go to the polls in large enough numbers waits to be seen, but it tends to be the more activist Democrats who vote in primaries.

    Carole King is doing some fundraising performances for Adams. While they won’t generate the kind of money needed for giant TV buys, Adams is getting some decent press out of her appearances.

    Yeah, the guy has some baggage, but he’s staying on message, now, while Bohlinger and Walsh seem to be not saying much of anything.

    • Though many might express “surprise” at Adams’ showing, I doubt many professional type pundits will actually care, win or lose, about the Democratic Senate primary. They are all pretty much in the bag for Daines as it is.

      A couple more points: 1) It would be fair to take the contested off year US House primary of 2010 as a blueprint for this year. The establishment Democrat (McDonald) defeated the progressive alternative (Gernant) with 38% of the D vote to Tyler’s 24%. A 38% showing for the favored candidate is certainly nothing to brag about, and all Gernant needed was about 9000 more votes to win it. He didn’t get those because …
      2) There were two progressive alternatives to McDonald on the ballot. Melinda Gopher took 21% of the vote, 13000 votes that might have gone for Gernant, putting him well over McDonald. I’m not claiming that Gopher was a spoiler, just that she was a viable alternative that 13,000 voters favored (mostly in counties where the turnout percentage was MUCH higher than in Missoula, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark or Yellowstone.) The lesson should be this: Though Walsh is the ‘opponent’ for Adams to beat, he has to distinguish himself enough from Bohlinger not to lose the disaffected vote in the rather numerous outlying counties who know Bohlinger as Lt. Governor.
      3) In 2010, Missoula county did *not* have the highest turnout of Democratic voters; Yellowstone did by approximately 200 ballots. Though it is likely that Missoula county has the highest percentage of registered voters likely to vote Democratic, they apparently did a very poor job of turning those voters out in the 2010 primary, showing the absolute lowest total turnout percentage of any county in the state. Gallatin county wasn’t much better, with a total turnout of 23 %, and Gallatin county has a much more even Democrat to Wingnut ratio. If Adams is counting on the environmentally friendly counties to carry him over Walsh, he will have to have a truly astounding GOTV effort to overcome the disaffected ‘your vote doesn’t matter’ message (most of which has come from the very progressives he is courting for his base.)
      4) There are some wildcards this year which could favor Adams or hurt him. In Missoula county, there is a delightfully charming (/sarcasm) primary race for county attorney which could affect voter turnout in his favor. In Gallatin county, there are a bunch of TEAPeeps running as Democrats. Despite the caterwaul from other sources claiming that Gallatin Democrats are too stupid to notice the difference, I don’t believe that’s the tactic of these wingnuts at all. What I believe that they are striving for is to get Republican voters to cross ballot and knock off as many weaker Dem candidates as possible, just like they did in SD 34 two years ago. If that effort is even remotely successful, it is impossible to predict the impact it will have on the Senate primary in Gallatin county.

      • I catch your drift, Rob, but some additional points: you’re right about a big GOTV effort needed by Adams but I haven’t seen much of a ground game by the other two, either (yet). I looked at the 2010 results before crafting my comment above and although Gernant may have been more progressive than McDonald, he ran a very mainstream/moderate campaign and really didn’t differentiate himself from McDonald. Gopher was definitely the most progressive but ran a nonexistent campaign (no staff, money, media). Then there was that wild card, Rankin, who I wouldn’t really call a progressive. He came in fourth in the four-way contest, still getting 16% of the vote with a nonexistent campaign. This time, though, there’ll only be three on the ballot.

        I agree that the pundits aren’t really paying that much attention to the primary. I wonder if Walsh isn’t in the same boat, saving his big guns for the general against Daines. That could help Adams (and Bohlinger, to a lesser degree).

        To me, Bohlinger is the wild card. He has name recognition but with Republicans as much as Democrats, and the Repubs have there own ballot to worry about. His “I’m running, not running, running again” strategy also can’t be helpful. We’ll see but I figure him for third place.

        I’d like to think that Missoulians are paying attention our county attorney race but they haven’t so much in the past, so I’m not sure that will help Adams.

        Finally, in Gallatin County, do you think that far-right Republicans will actually cross over to vote for candidates on the Democratic ballot? They’re champing at the bit to vote for nut cases like Rosendale and Turiano. Anyway, I hope the tea partiers who filed as Democrats get their asses handed to them.

      • The best statistic for measuring voter turnout is the Voting Age Population. The VEP turnout in the last four midterm primaries in Montana has been below 30 percent, and the turnout in both 1998 and 2002 was lower than in 2010. I just posted on Flathead Memo a graph of VEP primary turnout in MT for 1972–2012, and a link to a spreadsheet with the data.

  • Good observations Pete. Here’s something else that’s been brewing regarding the upcoming Montana Senate election.

    Anyone see Ed Regan’s (RY Timber in Townsend) oped in the Missoulian from yesterday offering up the timber industry strong support for Sen John Barrasso’s (R-WYO) completely crazy mandated logging bill?

    Bottom Line: If you think Congressional politicians simply mandating more public lands logging by undermining America’s bedrock environmental laws, departing from science-based management and jeopardizing the future of our national forests is a great idea, then, yes, by all means, strongly support Barrasso’s forest bill.

    In reality what this oped strongly supporting the crazy Barrasso bill actually signifies is the crumbling of the “collaboration” on Tester’s mandated logging with Montana’s big timber mills and the Montana Wilderness Association, Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, Wilderness Society and Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

    ICYMI, not only has Rep Steve Daines been making his very own crazy mandated logging bill (HR 1526, the so-called “Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act”) a centerpiece of his Senate election (using a new TV ad shot right within the Tester Timber Mills), but now the manager of RY Timber (the very place where Tester’s bill was first announced) has come out supporting Barrasso’s crazy forest bill.

    The Montana timber industry has put us all on notice. They want more access to more taxpayer subsidized national forest timber sales with less environmental analysis and less public input. If you doubt that, just go back and check out what the Montana timber industry has supported and called for during the past 15 years. But then again, people like Bruce Farling at TU and John Gatchell at MWA actually haven’t participated in (m)any timber sale NEPA processes over the past 15 years, so their understanding of federal forest policy is limited.

    The fact that “collaborators” like Montana Wilderness Association, Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, Wilderness Society and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition would be a part of this National Forest lands “Race to the Bottom” is just amazing.

    The potential impact in the current Montana Senate race is clear. I’m sure Hilltop planned on having Walsh just use the Tester mandated logging playbook to get all those timber mill owners to back Walsh.

    But it’s very clear that Daines’ campaign, and the big Montana timber mills, have out-flanked Walsh, Hilltop, Tester and the “collaborators” and just pushed ahead with the GOP and resource extraction industry’s public lands “race to the bottom” agenda.

    Oh well, it’s not like we haven’t warned people that this would happen since April 2006 when the “Beaverhead Partnership” was announced by MWA, TU, NWF and the timber mills at Sherman Anderson’s Sun Mtn Lumber Co.

    • My association and misplaced faith in MWA makes me think of the closing closing words of Animal Farm:

      Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but it was already impossible to say which was which.

      • The Sierra Club board members sure drive some piggy vehicles.

        “Members of the Sierra Club’s board of directors are driving around in gas-guzzling vehicles, despite the group’s support for the Obama administration’s increased fuel efficiency standards.

        The Sierra Club strongly supported the Obama administration’s increase in minimum fuel economy standards to 54.4 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2025, but it seems the Club’s top officials don’t practice what they preach.

        The Sierra Club’s 15-member board of directors own a combined 32 vehicles, less than one-fifth of which are hybrids or electric vehicles. Seven of the 32 vehicles are sports utility vehicles while only six are hybrids and electric cars, according to data gathered by the Environmental Policy Alliance.”

        Read more:

  • I won’t tell you anything new, but it is the same in any other field.
    You would think history teaches us anything, but that’s so rare.
    Feel free to disagree but the world is changing, and we have no control over it.
    For instance, If only Obama had enough balls to put Putin to his place, but it seems like it’s never happening, welcome WW3.
    A truly inspiring post, thanks!

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