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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Montana as a Swing State

Posted by Bob Brigham

When Kos titles a piece, "Montana on the Road to a Swing State" I think SSP should take notice. While Montana might not go for a Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, it will have competive Senate and at-large House races in 2006. Additionally, I've been thinking a great deal about the 2024 presidential campaign and when doing so I have a hard time imagining Democrats being successful in 20 years if we don't embrace a western strategy now.

In 2006 Montana is going to have two federal races with weak incumbents. Since Montana has a lone House seat, both campaigns require state-wide efforts and thus the crowd jockeying to go to Washington will look long and hard before deciding which incumbent they want to take on.

Senator Conrad Burns has build his image as the caricature of the hill-billy politician. A darling of the energy companies, he has had a most unremarkable time in DC. Historically, Montana sends legislative titans to DC and Burns has failed to meet these obligations. In 2000, he was nearly knocked out by a complete unknown, never-run-before candidate with little backing from the Party.

In 1988, Burns ran for Senate as an outsider who would serve only two terms if elected. He lied. Now Conrad has become exactly what he was elected to counter which may explain why he is desperately seeking a golden parachute from the telecommunications industry. If Burns is on the ballot in 2006, this will be one of the best pick-up opportunities in the country. If he isn't, it will be one of the most competitive open seats in the country.

Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, also excels at being unremarkable. He couldn't even beat Max Baucus in 1996 after Max voted for the Brady Bill. The problem is, nobody trusts Rehberg. Considering this distrust extends to his Republican colleagues on the Hill might help explain why he has accomplished nothing. However, Rehberg's mediocre reputation as a lawmaker should not be confused with his campaign abilities. Rehberg's paranoia, limited intelligence, phony image, and notorious temper cause a blundering style of campaigning that is statistically due to fail.

I'll be writing more about this as things heat up during the legislative session. Most candidates realize a strong surfacing campaign allows them to choose to face the weaker of the two incumbents. Of course, most would rather be in the Senate, with the possible exception of Larry Jent, who would consider trying to stand out among 435 members and having to run every other year to be more of a personal challenge.

Posted at 04:40 PM in Montana | Technorati



I manage a blog called Libertarians for America that is trying to reach out to libertarian voters and bring them into the Democratic tent. It's part of an effort on the part of grassroots libertarian group called the Democratic Freedom Caucus (http://www.democraticfreedomcaucus.org/). We'd be really interested in hearing about the potential candidates in 2006 for either the House or Senate Seat if they seem like they have a libertarian-bent to them that seems to be popular in the West. We used Knowles as an example of a libertarian Democrat during 2004, and we're sad that he lost, but we've built up more energy despite (because?) of how 2004 turned out and we really want to help in 2006. If you can help provide information on candidates we'd appreciate it greatly. Thanks.

Posted by: Logan Ferree at December 20, 2004 09:47 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Good point; but another one is that Montana may swing DESPITE "Kosian" style blue state Dems, not because of them. These Montanans are some of the Dems Donnie Fowler's talking about: people who embrace core Dem values but also share many with Libertarians, independents and the GOP.

The vital center. It's where the key to the red-zone lies.

Posted by: ringmaster at December 29, 2004 11:41 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment