In a little over a month, mail-in ballots for Montana’s special election will be going out. Maybe.
The bill to make this an all mail-in election is still in the Montana House Judiciary Committee and time draws nigh. Still, with the election to be held May 25, one would think the candidates for the open congressional seat would be out shaking hands and kissing babies.
Republican candidate Greg Gianforte is M.I.A.
His Facebook page for the month of March shows him marching in the Billings St. Patrick’s Day parade. That’s it and that was ten days ago. A click on his ‘events’ button says, “Greg Gianforte does not have any upcoming events.” Same with his website: nada.
Perhaps the Montana Republican Party is carrying his water but there are zero events mentioned on its site. The only thing coming up is the Park County Lincoln-Reagan Dinner with the keynote speaker — not next door neighbor Gianforte — but Mary Todd (someone channelling Honest Abe Lincoln’s wife?).
As for the media, there’s been little to no news since the Republican nominating convention held March 6. There’s a chance that Gianforte’s campaign is all meet-and-greets with party insiders and entreaties to big donors, and it’s flying below the radar. It seems like an odd strategy to build enthusiasm and momentum, get volunteers and organize a grassroots campaign.
At this point, grassroots doesn’t look like the game plan — more like massive TV buys, negative in nature, and some radio, print and mailings.
Democratic candidate Rob Quist is at least hitting the road and doing events, according to his website and Facebook page. Tonight he’s in Kalispell at a health care rally. He’s in Great Falls on Wednesday at the C.M. Russell Museum and next week in Butte at the Finlen. Last week he had public lands rallies in Billings, Kalispell and Missoula. There are also numerous phone bank and door knocking opportunities listed.
Quist has been getting media, too, although not all of it good. This too shall pass with the next news cycle although it could resurface in negative TV ads. “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” It’s a quote variously attributed to Mae West, P.T. Barnum, Will Rogers and W.C. Fields. We’ll see if it applies here.
One question will be: do more Montanans identify with the guy who has had some tax and debt problems associated with health issues, or with the multi-millionaire?
Another question: is the Republican Party concerned about a missing Gianforte? Quist is working the campaign trail and Gianforte is not. The larger question might be: will a grassroots, person-to-person campaign beat a big money media blitz?
We’ll know the answers to these questions on May 26.