Among the signs that a campaign is in trouble during the last few weeks before an election is an increasingly desperate, dishonest tone from the candidate who knows he’s likely losing. That dishonesty is likely magnified when the candidate is spending vast amounts of his own money to try to win the race. Both certainly seem to be the case with Greg Gianforte’s failing bid for governor, in which the candidate has now ineffectively thrown in over $5 million dollars to try to buy Montana voters.
It’s not working—and Gianforte is getting desperate.
Yesterday, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, his adopted hometown’s newspaper, had to go so far as to write a story pointing out that the Gianforte campaign was dishonestly misrepresenting reporting the paper had done in his latest attack ad. While it’s hard to keep track of every, or even many, of the blatantly false and bitterly negative attacks from the Gianforte campaign, this one was especially egregious, as it dishonestly suggested that the Bozeman Daily Chronicle had called the Bullock administration corrupt and paid “hush money” in some settlements to employees who left state government. As the managing editor of the Chronicle notes in the piece, the Gianforte ad was designed to give a false impression about what the paper had reported to deliberately mislead viewers.
Gianforte also lied this week about his support for a sales tax. As I first wrote in May, Gianforte supported a sales tax back in 2002, arguing that one would help his company to impose a sales tax on Montanans. In September, the AP reported about an audio clip released by the Montana Democratic Party in which Gianforte not only supported a sales tax, but called it an “ideal solution.”
In Gianforte world, though, the person who supported a sales tax as an ideal solution runs an attack ad in which he claims “No Sales Tax Ever,” attempting to mislead viewers into believing that the Bullock campaign is somehow wrong to bring up his past support. Not satisfied with that, the ad claims that Governor Bullock, a lifelong Montanan who has ALWAYS opposed a sales tax, is the candidate likely to impose one. Even Karl Rove would have been embarrassed to run an ad like that.
These, of course, are just the latest lies from a candidate and campaign that have lied about refugees, filing lawsuits to block public access, and a host of other issues.
I get why Greg is upset. I’d be frustrated if I wasted $500, and can only imagine what it must feel like to flush away at least $5 million on a vanity campaign for governor. It’s probably galling him that he hasn’t been able to scare and lie his way into persuading people he sees as rubes into voting for his campaign, and it’s certainly driving him crazy that no matter the line of dishonest attack, he doesn’t seem to be gaining traction with Montana voters. None of that, however, excuses an increasingly dirty, divisive, and dishonest campaign—especially from someone who holds himself as some sort of paragon of Christian virtue.
It’s okay to lose, Greg. Maybe just see if you can do it with a little dignity and integrity on the way out?