Republicans are serious about 2020 in Montana.
Tim Fox and Corey Stapleton have already begun to raise money for the gubernatorial campaigns, have transformed their state agency pages into personal hagiographies, and are spending an astonishing amount of time focusing their energy on spinning their political narratives to the press.
Steve Daines, who has raised obsequious deference to our dangerously deranged President to unprecedented heights and who has never really faced a race against an opponent truly given the resources to beat him, is still hiding from Montanans while he raises money for a campaign that will almost certainly be devoted to not telling Montanans about his real record in D.C.
And we’re all waiting for Greg Gianforte and Matt Rosendale to get over the coquettish flirting in public phase and announce that the former will run again for governor while the latter announces yet another bid to leave Montana and get back to “the swamp” of Congress.
And the Democrats? Other than two candidates for the House race, total silence in the top tier races. No Democrat has announced for governor to continue the work Brian Schweitzer and Steve Bullock have done to protect the people of Montana from the worst impulses (and they are legion) of the Republicans in the Legislature. No Democrat has announced for the Senate to challenge Steve Daines, who has turned using public office into a means of personal enrichment into an art form.
While we have strong candidates for Attorney General (Dudik and Graybill) and Superintendent of Public Instruction (Romano), no one has announced for Auditor or Secretary of State, with the former likely to be a new candidate and the latter even odds to be Corey Stapleton when he slinks back out of the governor’s race. There are rumors about great candidates considering runs but rumors can’t raise name recognition or even raise much money.
Some of the hesitation certainly has to center around Governor Bullock. Some potential candidates are surely thinking they’ll wait until after the session and when Bullock makes his plans clear, but that ship has sailed: the governor thinks his best bet is to run for President, so it’s time for someone to step up to the Senate race. And it’s past time for candidates to announce for governor and begin the process of letting Montana Democrats vet them in a spirited primary.
Perhaps candidates are waiting to see where others will land, but that shouldn’t guide their decisionmaking. Each should run for the office s/he thinks is the best fit, not dance around other candidates, hoping to land to in an easier race. While the media continues to spin the narrative that Republicans have a “deeper bench” than Democrats, much of that deep bench was created by people who lost previous races. Before he became Montana’s least able Secretary of State, Corey Stapleton lost race after race. Before he became the absentee Auditor, Matt Rosendale lost a race for Congress. Tim Fox and Greg Gianforte? Both previous losers.
Candidates who are serious about challenging the Republican field in 2020 need to worry less about losing, worry less about positioning, and worry more about crafting narratives about their candidacies and their visions for the state.
It’s time, Democrats. Start these campaigns.