Montanans are Fickle Voters, Love a Maverick, Hate a Phony

Jon Tester, Brian Schweitzer, Bill Clinton

Here are three people who should have lost statewide elections in Montana, but won improbable victories.

Jon Tester upset Conrad Burns in 2006, Brian Schweitzer beat back a Republican national wave year in 2004 and Bill Clinton is the last Democrat to win Montana in a presidential election. Even in that win though Clinton did not garner the most votes of a Democratic presidential candidate running in Montana.

Do you know who that person is?

In 2008 Montana Democrats carried 6 of the 7 statewide races winning a U.S. Senate seat, Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Superintendent and Auditor. Democrats also held the PSC and state legislature with, gasp…an African-American at the top of the ticket. Barack Obama brought many of these voters to the ticket, that otherwise may not have voted at all.

Anyone can win in Montana and Barack Obama proves that any candidate can help other Democrats win in Montana. Ask the slew of statewide winners in 2008 and they know that Barack Obama helped get them over the finish line.

I have heard some rumblings around the state that people are concerned that Democrats may nominate Cory Booker, Kamala Harris or even Tulsi Gabbard. I find these discussions disconcerting, to say the least, but I am used to them because I used to hear in 2008 that Americans would not elect an African-American President.

All of those people were wrong, as well as some of them being other things too.

Often forgotten in the 2008 drama was that President Obama actually made Montana a battleground state and opened 13 offices, hiring nearly 100 staffers around the state and received the most votes of any Democratic presidential candidate in Montana history and the highest percentage of votes any Democrat has received in Montana as a presidential candidate since 1964 when LBJ was the last Democrat to get over 50% of the vote. Barack Obama lost to John McCain by just over two percentage points. Bill Clinton won Montana in 1992 with a plurality because Ross Perot appeared on the ticket as an independent.

I contend that the only reason Barack Obama lost his bid to win Montana is because he ran against McCain, who is nearly a perfect candidate for Montana as a GOP – veteran, rational, bipartisan, against dark money and the original maverick.

President Obama carried Indiana in 2008, North Carolina, Virginia, nearly won Missouri and put Arizona, Georgia, and Montana in play. None of these were traditional battleground states.

Looking back we can see 2008 with 20/20 vision and applying the lessons of fighting hard, fighting everywhere and not conceding ground we can win anywhere. I say look back at 2008 and get to work for 2020.

I heard the same refrain over and over in the primary in 2007 and 2008 from folks who didn’t believe electing Barack Obama president was possible. I heard, “but America is not ready”  well they were wrong, I didn’t listen and worked my tail off to get it done. Do the same and in 2020 we can win again like 2008.

Below is a chart of votes for the Democratic candidate for president in Montana going back to 1960.

November 4th, 2008 Barack Obama was elected president of the United States of America, I will never forget that day, I had worked through the night before preparing canvass packets with volunteers and local candidates in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, just outside of Madison. I took this photo of the Television as President-elect Obama entered stage right into our lives. I was tired, I was cranky, I was hungry, I was relieved.

Here is the photo I took at that moment:

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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Nathan Kosted


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