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.