I’ll admit it—Governor Bullock had me convinced that he was not going to run for the Senate, so much so that I started a draft of a post on Saturday making the argument that we needed to focus our energy on the other candidates in the race. But with reports from local media, the New York Times, and Politico all saying today that he’s likely to announce a bid, Montana Republicans are melting down at the prospect of a candidate who has high name recognition and the ability to raise money entering the race.
And they should be. With Senator Daines tethered to the sinking Donald Trump ever tighter every day, with Daines never having experienced a very competitive race, with Daines so terrified of Montana voters that he only interacts with them from a call center in D.C., and with national Democrats eager to flip a Senate seat, Governor Bullock would(with no slight intended to the current candidates) immediately make the race a far more competitive one.
Today’s version of the Republican hysteria is rooted in the fact that, were he to run, Bullock would be contradicting his earlier declarations that he wasn’t interested in the race. It’s a specious argument on its face, as candidates are always evaluating races and Bullock is no different: certainly, he’s had ample reason to reconsider running against Daines as the Senator has completely caved to the lawlessness of the Trump administration and seen his approval rating drop in the state. Bullock has also had time to survey the national mood to determine if this is the right time to run for the Senate.
But the Republican wailing today wasn’t just pathetic, it was incredibly hypocritical. On Facebook, they wailed that Bullock had been misleading Montanans, perhaps forgetting that Steve Daines himself has some experience with being undecided about a Senate bid.
Back in 2011, Daines announced that he was going to run for the Senate, only to retreat from the race faster than he runs from constituents when Denny Rehberg announced his bid.
In 2013, Daines was so indecisive that The Hill Reported that he was fundraising for the House and the Senate at the same time because he just couldn’t decide where he could do the most damage:
Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) needs your help to win in 2014 — but it is not exactly clear which race he means.
The freshman congressman is strongly considering a run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Max Baucus (D) but has made no decision yet.
In a fundraising email sent Friday, Daines did not try to pick a race. Instead, he attempted to raise money off both potential campaigns simultaneously.
So Republicans can spare us the faux outrage about Governor Bullock deciding, if he has, to enter the Senate race late.
This race isn’t going to be about who entered the race and when; nor is it going to be about what any candidate said about the race before entering. It’s going to be a referendum on a Senator who believes that serving President Trump is more important than serving Montana, that giving himself tax breaks is more important than helping Montana families, and that our country is better off when it’s riven by divisive rhetoric that only makes it more challenging for us to face the problems we must collectively solve.
This race is going to be a referendum on a Senator who thinks so little of us that he believes that political spin is more important than productive policy.
And if is, in fact, Steve Bullock he will face in the general election, Steve Daines will be confronted with a candidate who has done more for Montana in the past two weeks than Steve Daines has done in a decade.
I think—and my sources seem to agree—that Governor Bullock is going to be in this race. Much as I admire the candidates who’ve already filed and begun their campaigns, it makes total sense that Republicans are panicking today because Bullock will bring a campaign that Steve Daines has never experienced.
Hell, if Denny Rehberg scared him out of a Senate bid, what will a two-term governor do?