Montana Politics

It’s Amanda Curtis for Senate: Some Advice from the Sidelines

I don’t think the results of today’s Democratic Party vote surprised anyone, but I’m hopeful that the outcome and swift decision will inspire Democrats to fight for this seat and maybe even bring a little passion back to a Party that has been battered a bit the past few weeks.

Avoid Any Temptation to Run to the Middle

Unlike purists who would rather lose elections, I understand the impulse for Montana statewide candidates to run as moderate, or even conservative, Democrats. Winning statewide elections in this state requires a different kind of candidate than winning in legislative seats in Missoula or Butte, and I’m glad we have had a moderate Senator voting for sensible policy rather than Dennis Rehberg voting for anything.
That being said, there’s nothing to be gained by Amanda Curtis positioning herself as a moderate here. For one reason, there’s more than enough video and audio to make it clear that a moderate candidate she’s not. The Republicans are going to do their best to paint her as some kind of a radical; instead of moving to the center, she’d be much better served by embracing the charges—and then forcefully asserting that if supporting working men and women, ensuring adequate wages, and access to education are radical ideas, the problem is with the Republican Party, not her.

The other reason to embrace her liberal view is to inspire young voters to get involved and maybe even increase the passion from some of us old folks. There has certainly been a cost to the Democratic Party as it has moved to the center; working to reinvigorate the liberal base of the Party is probably even more important than winning this race.

Focus on the Voters that Republican Party Policies Hurt

Okay, I realize that’s most people making less than a million dollars a year, but there are some focused targets to go after. I don’t think we’ve done enough to show Montana’s elderly how destructive Republican budgets will be for the services vital to them, to show middle class Montana families how devastating cuts to Pell Grants and other assistance for college will be, or enough to show working Montanans the danger of more pressure against the unions that protect wages and ensure access to health care. Winning this race has to be about more than millionaires versus the middle class; it has to be about the specific members of the middle and working classes who will be hurt by Steve Daines in the Senate.

Get in His Grill

The last thing Steve Daines wants to do is define or defend his record. The number of issues he refuses to take a position on is astonishing for someone who wants to be in the Senate. It was the same strategy he employed in his race against Kim Gillan, to refuse to answer whether he supported the Ryan budget, to refuse to take positions on wilderness bills. Once he got elected, of course, he swiftly became “most conservative member” of Congress from Montana, ever. Challenge him to debate, loudly, publicly, and often. When Republican talking heads suggest that Ms. Curtis isn’t experienced enough for the Senate, we should be asking why he’s afraid to face her in a debate. The truth is that Mr. Daines is too conservative for Montana and voters need to know that. We’re not Wyoming, even if the Montana GOP would like us to be, polluted skies and all.

Every time the press asks Ms. Curtis her position on an issue, she needs to remind them just how often Mr. Daines won’t take one.

Move the Energy Offline

The groundswell of support for Curtis started online and swiftly moved her into the position of the favorite for the Democratic nomination. The trick will be turning those online activists into offline campaigners, who will talk to their friends and neighbors. Twitter and Facebook don’t turn out voters—the unions and other organizations that supported the Curtis candidacy need to turn out their people and generate some excitement offline.

This is No Time For Cautious Calculation

When I analyzed the potential picks for the Senate seat earlier in the week, it seemed likely that the Democrats would pick a candidate with an eye to the future (launchpad candidates) or one with an eye on the past (the idealists). I think Ms. Curtis has the chance to bridge that divide, but not if she becomes a candidate who embraces caution for the sake of future elections. The only chance to win the election against Representative Daines this late in the cycle is through boldness of deed and action. Even if this race is the longest of shots, Democrats are far more likely to remember a candidate who ran boldly and lost than one who calculated her way to safe loss.

Can we win this race? It’s going to be an incredible challenge, but stranger things have certainly happened in Montana politcs, and this is Butte we’re talking about.


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  • I agree that how rich Daines may be is a non-issue. Ms. Curtis needs to focus on his lies and voting record. I think Ms. Curtis can win if she can get her message loud and clear to Montanans.

  • Republicans are already convincing themselves Amanda Curtis is Obama’s long-lost congenial twin.

    “Once again, Democrat party insiders have hand picked a candidate that is out-of-touch with Montana and all-too-eager to rubber stamp President Obama’s reckless agenda. From fighting for policies that threaten good paying coal jobs to mocking Montanans’ concerns over our national debt and working against our Second Amendment rights, Amanda Curtis proves that she either doesn’t understand what’s important to Montana– or just doesn’t care. We deserve a voice in Washington that will stand for Montana– not Obama.”

    They have posted this as evidence:

    Highlights include ridiculing AC for suggesting that the family is not a government branch and assaulting her for feeling safe without carrying a firearm through the streets of Helena. Sometimes Republicans make me smile – then I realize these fools are actually getting elected. A good day for the Democrats today.

  • Aren’t CONCERN TROLLS the cutest thing ever?

    Please distance yourself Bridger, Amanda is Nothing like Obama…well, she does have two eyes in front of her head, two ears, two arms, legs, hands, feet…

    Say what you will, I believe that a majority of Montanan’s will be responsive to what Amanda has to say.The only way she can lose here is if people buy into the CONCERN TROLLS ABBREVIATED REPORTS of what and who Amanda is.

    Please tell us how we can help you overcome the anxiety that letting go of the rigid control of the right wing policies. Have you tried T touch or Bachs Rescue Remedy:

    “Whatever the situation – immediate or ongoing – Rescue® Remedy can help. Taken anytime, anywhere Rescue Remedy is totally natural and contains five of the 38 Bach ® Flower Essences: Rock Rose for terror and panic, Impatiens for irritation and impatience, Clematis for inattentiveness, Star of Bethlehem for shock and Cherry Plum for irrational thoughts:

    Let me know if those methods don’t work for you and I will try to recall my other sources of comfort. You take care, be careful while operating any moving vehicle, and please please please avoid objects with sharp edges at any cost.


    • Wow Carla reread my message, I’m merely pointing out how pathetic and canned the Republican response to the nomination was. I’m not a troll nor am I in need of your eyeopenig democratic conversion toolkit. I for one believe we can listen to the oppositions messaging without falling head over heels for it, but perhaps you disagree. I found the Republican response amusing and thought it worh sharing for a good chuckle.

  • I went to the Federal Elections Commission site and it looks like Walsh still has over $700,000 in unspent campaign funds. Can he transfer those funds to Amanda?

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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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