The Republican Primary is Over. Greg Gianforte Will Be The Republican Candidate for Governor

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I was talking to a friend who works in Republican politics the other day, and he casually mentioned what anyone who is really paying attention already knows: Greg Gianforte has already won the Republican nomination for governor. 

The Montana Democratic Party knows it. Pundits know it. And the operatives who run the Montana GOP and its campaigns know it. Gianforte, through the combination of his personal wealth, name recognition, and willingness to buy supporters and attack rivals, has locked up his party’s nomination.

And the other two candidates never really had a chance.

Sure, they’ll be a candidate forum next week in Billings, and we’ll see some ads online and on our televisions between now and the June primary, but the sooner we Democrats realize that the November election will be between one of our candidates and the millionaire from New Jersey, the better.

Some of the reason Gianforte will be the nominee is the failure of the Fox campaign to understand that their candidate is running in 2020, not 2000. They’ve accumulated endorsements from a species more endangered than grizzly bears in Montana, moderate Republicans more interested in good governance than rabid ideology, and well-heeled influencers who could host big money events to jumpstart campaigns, but those voters are not the people who will turn out in June.

The days when Republican nominations were won at country clubs are long since over.  Just ask Russ Fagg.

While that used to be the path for a successful bid as a Republican candidate, the ascendance of people like Matt Rosendale and Randy Pinocci reveals a Republican primary electorate that’s drunk on the potent cocktail of Trumpian dishonesty and ignorance. While Fox is making the rounds and collecting endorsements from Republican interest groups, Gianforte is sinking deeper into the abasement necessary for Republican candidates to prove their fealty to the President.

While the Fox campaign has made some half-hearted attempts to appeal to that most base base, shilling for Chik-Fil-A can’t compete with the three years of craven, debased support for President Trump that Congressman Gianforte has endured and brings to the table.

It’s not just the Fox campaign, though. The real Republican machine, the zealots who decry RINOS and run the party, have been in on the fix for Gianforte from the outset. He’s spent years laying the groundwork for this run, funding Montana legislative candidates, white supremacists included, the state Republican Party, and county and local organizations.

He’s got the support of his handpicked Senator, Steve Daines, and while more traditional establishment Republicans may have encouraged him to stay out of the race for governor, the movers and shakers who’ve run Montana campaigns for years leaped to his campaign and have been eager surrogates for his bid from the outset.

Poor Tim Fox and Dr. Al never had a chance against that.

There’s some talk online among Democrats that we should cross party lines in the primary to support Fox, who is widely and correctly seen as a more moderate alternative to Gianforte, but Democrats should reject that notion. We’ve got a competitive primary on our side, one in which all of the candidates deserve the chance to earn our support. 

If the Republican machine wants a coronation for Greg Gianforte, let’s let them have it while we enjoy a primary that will be about competing visions for the future of Montana, not who has the deepest pockets or the greatest sway with party insiders. 

The die is cast. It might have even been loaded. Let’s focus on the Democratic primary process choosing the candidate most likely to defeat the anointed Republican challenger.

And let’s start right now.

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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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • It’s gotta be Cooney. I like Whitney but she has no traction east of the divide. My guess is she’s getting her name out there for a run at the new House seat in 2024.

  • I’m afraid you’re right, Gianforte’s got the Republican nomination locked up. Fox is bad, but nowhere near as bad as Gianforte.

    I remember when Gianforte came to Baker when he was running against Bullock and I got to talk to him for a fair amount because not very many people showed up. I was amazed how much he lied about Bullock’s record. I can understand Gianforte, like so many politicians, lying when it was useful to him, but what amazed me is that he lied when there was no point, none at all, and he might even have been able to turn the truth to his advantage. But he lied when it didn’t even help him.

    It’s alarming, really.

    I’ve been reading Brandy Lee’s work on Donald Trump. She’s a psychiatrist who is arguing that mental health professionals have a duty to warn the public when they know that a leader is dangerous. Lots of politicians may have mental health issues. Lincoln, for example, suffered from severe depression. FDR scored very high in narcissistic traits. Nevertheless both were competent leaders and successfully led the country through dangerous times. Even if a political leader has mental health issues, there is no duty to warn unless they are also dangerous, a threat to the public.

    From what I have seen of Gianforte, I’m beginning to wonder if he is not dangerous in much the same way that Brandy Lee believes that Trump is. Let us not forget, Gianforte assaulted a reporter who was acting well within professional norms, simply asking relevant questions. When has this happened before in Montana?

    A leader who has a dangerous personality structure, perhaps being a malignant narcissist, a psychopath, or deeply paranoid, is dangerous not just because of what they may decide but also because of what they bring out in their followers. As Freud long ago pointed out, followers identify with their leaders, becoming like them, as well as taking on the collective character of the group they lead.

    People can behave much differently than they ordinarily would if they become a member of a group led by a malignant narcissist or a psychopath. These kinds of leaders build power by releasing the energy repressed in the shadow side of their followers. Ordinarily, we repress traits in ourselves, like paranoia, rage, and resentment, that others find unacceptable. We throw these traits into our shadows, as Jung described it, denying and repressing them, hiding them from others. But a leader who gives license to these traits, pretending they are worthy and moral, and allows them to become group traits, can become very powerful, holding great sway over their followers. Releasing the shadow side of ourselves is as intoxicating as it is dangerous.

    I fear what I’ve seen in Gianforte, and I am terrified of what he might bring out in his followers.

  • No, it’s not over.

    Any of the GOP candidates will be a fine Governor, but it’s still too far from the primary to call it.

    The Democrats have some serious work to do because all of their candidates are strictly second tier. No excitement for any of them.

  • With Gianforte’s plans to cut taxes and regulations, at every public outing Gianforte should be asked how his plans will not turn Montana into what happened in Kansas. The message has to be loud and frequent as to what happened in Kansas when conservative policies were enacted. Eventually, Republicans with a modicum of intelligence turned against those policies. As a result, Kansas now has a Democratic governor working for the people, not for the Koch brothers.
    Gianforte MUST detail any impacts of his tax cut proposals and detail the specific regulations that he wants to cancel.
    When, he doesn’t answer the questions, he has to be called out for trying to deceive the Montana residents.

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