“The ground game is where we win”

That’s a quote from a Quist campaign coordinator who wished to remain anonymous unless I cleared what she said with campaign hierarchy, which I don’t feel like doing.

To be honest, if I were a betting man, ten days ago I would have put my money on a Gianforte win: one bad Quist story after another hitting the newspapers, nasty anti-Quist commercials on TV all day long, ugly hit pieces in mailboxes on a regular basis. The early polls, as much as they can be trusted, didn’t paint a pretty picture, either.

But if election results are about anything, they’re about momentum. Quist has it; Gianforte doesn’t.

The negative ads are wearing thin and it’s all old news. On the other hand, Gianforte was just caught supporting the recent Republican health care plan while telling folks back home, according to an aide:

“He would not have voted for the bill because he didn’t know what was in it.”

This sort of duplicitous stance does not play well in Montana. And the New York Times alludes to other problems in the Gianforte campaign.

Asking the lobbyists to give $5,000 each by Friday to “scare off some other Democrat money,” Mr. Gianforte acknowledged that Mr. Quist had far wider support.

“We’ve had over 5,000 individual people support the campaign financially so far,” he said on the recording. “The challenge is my opponent has over 30,000 contributors.”

Polling by both parties has indicated that Mr. Gianforte is leading in the race, but only narrowly, which the Republican acknowledged on the call.

“We’re in a single-digit race,” he said, adding that the left would relish the symbolic importance of snatching a Republican-held House seat.

This race is between a big money media blitz and grassroots activism. In the past, I’ve always given the nod to big money.

Some anecdotes from the campaign trail have me wondering if maybe the grassroots can pull this off.

An acquaintance living off the beaten path between Stevensville and Corvallis had a Quist volunteer knock on her door the other day. This is in the Bitterroot, my friends. She also reports seeing many more Quist yard signs up than Gianforte has there. Same in the metropolis of Hot Springs when I visited last weekend.

At a stop by Quist’s Missoula headquarters yesterday, I was greeted by two woman who had driven from Corpus Christi, Texas, on their own dime. They were headed to Glacier National Park but spent a few days here bundling campaign literature and hitting the doors. Then there was an elderly gent who’d come up from Albuquerque, N.M. He had just walked in after canvassing a Missoula neighborhood.

Phone calls are being made every night, data are being entered, then more phone calls are made. There are women-to-women phone banks set up in every major Montana city later this week.

The organizer I spoke to says she has 300-plus phone and email messages from people around the country wanting to volunteer. Some of them went to a Montana university or have kids who live here or visit in the summer. Another woman came up a few days early for her son’s college graduation and is now volunteering, although she says she’s never been active in politics before. There’s also a postcard campaign — dozens of folks sitting around a table writing cards to friends, family and potential Quist voters.

It’s called the resist movement and it has certainly taken hold in our special election. Some pundits would say it’s a bad thing to have a flood of out-of-staters working on a Montana candidate’s behalf. I don’t. It indicates the depth of concern people all over the country have with the Trump administration. And rightfully so.

Finally, there’s the candidate. The sleazy ads and press attacks haven’t slowed Quist down. From his events page, I see he’s doing a Hi Line tour, then stops in Great Falls, Billings and Bozeman. There are meet-and-greets everywhere, with anyone, every chance he gets.

Gianforte’s schedule seems to be announced after the fact. Yes, he does have Vice President Pence stumping in Billings — where he has to win if he’s going to carry the state. Donald Trump Jr. will be stocking up on prairie dog pelts, again, after doing an I-15 campaign for Gianforte in Great Falls, Helena and Butte. If Republicans are convinced of a Gianforte victory, one has to wonder why they’re pouring these sorts of resources into our state.

There are only 16 days until the election but I’m getting the feeling that Rob Quist could win this thing.






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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • Good luck to you Pete. I know you want it so badly. In reality, it won’t make a dimes worth of difference in the long run. You’re high hopes, and dire warnings regarding the consequences of this particular election have been voiced many times in the past. Take a look. Guess what? We’re still here. I even managed to have dinner tonight. Must be a good water year.

  • One thing about you Pete – you’re always optimistic !

    Whistling through the graveyard again, but optimistic!

  • Now time for everybody’s ground game to take to field.

    Ask non-wriggle questions to two Montana candidates for Congress,
    while AG Sessions approves President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey
    on trumped up charges.

  • hehe, I got a call from a gent from Southern California today to support Quist and in the conversation he highly recommended I watch the Michael Moore’s movie, Where to Invade Next. wow….

    • Oh what a busy day for our President.
      Poll numbers still down trending after Trump Care voted down.

      Press says people like Sally Yates, not Purge 2. The PURGE of Sally Yates.
      POTUS knows there’s two Grand Juries. Dozens of subpoenas. Nine sealed Indictments.

      Stone, Manafort, Page and Flynn will have to testify. So best thing to do yesterday is PURGE #3. Purge out FBI Director on trumped up charges. Same as PURGE 1 of Preet Bahrara.

      Busy day today for President Trump. Got to have Rex Tillerson and Russian Ambassador Lavrov come to the White House. Elsewhere socialize with Kislyak. Nothing else on Public Schedule today.

      Course our President has got to be concerned about how much loyalty he’ll get from Paul Ryan.
      Politics depend on relationships. Unfortunately our President has created a mess for Paul Ryan.

      Maybe not much deep relationship w Mitch. Who today did not act but only spoke, in favor of no more investigation into Russian espionage and spying. What else could he say? Mitch McConnell is now fingered for Russian money in his Campaign Funds.
      And there stands Mike Pence. As recomended by Paul Manafort.

      This could be a lonely time for our President.

      Maybe more lonely Friday.

        • Good put, drain the swamp. The rule of law will now apply. Syrian safe zones! Super, lets find out who and why requested the unmasking of General Flynn and probably many others. Nine sealed Indictments, Democrat’s (Hillary & Co) or Republicans? Maybe Clinton Foundation?

          • Now 25 Sealed Indictments. Both Kislyak and Lavrov in USA White House with go between Tillerson and Pres Trump talking about. . . . . . .?

            OnlyTV allowed is local Russian TV. Go figure what’s up and going down!

            Oh, Pres Obama twice told us about Flynn in with Russians.
            First FISA Warrant on Flynn last July.
            After FBI Agents recently talked with Flynn, then ActingAG//Deputy AG Sally Yates talked with WH Counsel about Flynn.
            In part because Putin agents could blackmail Misha Flynn.

            Can you think of a better reason to PURGE Sally Yates?

            Or a better reason for Sally Yates to be part of an Independent Investigation of Trump agents and Putin agents involved in spying also espionage?

  • There are likely yet unindicted conspirators in Manhattan AG Schneiderman, Preet Bharara supported, NY case re past laundering of rubles to dollars in Trump Casinos. That also not cute.
    But significant for a Prosecution Order would be non-pardonable.

    Time to request even demand, our Senators to stand up for an Independent Special Investigation of Russian and Trump agents engaged in treasonous spying and espionage.
    See and hear what Manafort VP pick Mike Pence tells Montana on Friday.

    Because Mr. Gianforte does not follow current events,
    he does not want to hear from people that are following PURGE 1, 2 and 3.
    Does not want to even think about why Lavrov and Kislyak were laughing in front of our grimacing President.

  • Good Lord. It’s painfully obvious that politics is the dirty underbelly of human nature. I wouldn’t be proud of any affiliation with it. Truth and honesty reside in science. That is if it too has not been tainted by bias, greed and money. Which of course it all too often is. It’s sad. I guess It can all be traced back to survival instincts. Funny, I would have thought we would have moved beyond that by now.

  • Pete, any idea when Bernie Sanders is coming to Montana to fulfill his long standing promise to campaign for Quist? With only 13 days left he is running out of time.

      • UPDATE: Bernie just called (not really) but here’s the news from social media sites:

        Missoula- May 20th 11am -noon
        Butte- May 20th 3pm-4pm
        Billings- May 20th 8:30-9:30 pm
        Bozeman- May 21st 11am-noon

  • I just saw it hit the Missoulian. Bernie is a little late, since most of the absentee ballots will be in by then but it will help rally the troops for the last minute get out the vote effort.

    Bernie will definitely rally the left side of the isle for Quist, but I am not certain how the independent and swing voters will view his visit. Based on the recent polls, Quist is stuck on the 38%+ yellow dog democrats vote. He needs to pull independents and lean Republicans. I am not certain that Bernie is the guy who will do that for him and in fact, might have the opposite effect. The ‘I am a Socialist” Sanders might drive off as many votes as he attracts.

    • Better late than never, Pogo. I can’t believe Sanders could be a worse emissary than Trump Jr. was for GG. With all the recent headlines about Trump Sr. — the Comey firing and back-peddling and crazy tweets — you’d thing GG would want to distance himself as much as possible from DJT.

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