Sunday, December 18, 2016

No, Montana Is NOT Irretrievably Lost To Democrats-- Not By A Long Shot


There was more blue in this gubernatorial map than in the presidential map

As we mentioned last night, flabby neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, is thinking about running for Congress-- the at-large seat Ryan Zinke will give up when the Senate confirms him as Donald Trump, Jr's Interior Secretary and animal-shooting pardner. Montana was one of the biggest of all the Trump states or, more likely, anti-Hillary states. He took 279,240 votes (56.5%) to her 177,709 (35.7%), The only states she did worse in were Wyoming (21.9%), West Virginia (26.5%), North Dakota (27.2%), Idaho (27.5%), Utah (27.5%), Oklahoma (28.9%), South Dakota (31.7%), Kentucky (32.7%), Arkansas (33.7%), Nebraska (33.7%), Alabama (34.4%) and Tennessee (34.7%)... some great company! She only won 6 of Montana's 56 counties, and only one-- practically unpopulated Glacier-- convincingly.

Four years previous, Montana took 8 counties and won 200,489 votes (42%) to Romney's 264,974 (55%). Steve Bullock was first elected governor that day as well and he did substantially better than Hillary or Obama. He won with 234,980 votes (49%) to Rick Hill's 226,555 (47%)-- and 12 counties. This year Bullock ran for re-election and won... with more votes than in 2012: 250,845 (50.2%) against a very rich but very certifiably insane Greg Gianforte, who walked away with 232,080 votes (46.4%). Trump's coattails, largely non-existent anywhere in the country, didn't do Pianoforte any good. In fact, Bullock won 2 counties that he lost in 2012: Lake and Park and upped his game in Missoula, Bozeman and Billings.

More Montanans voted to expand the state's medical marijuana law than voted for Bullock or for Trump. It passed 284,531 (57.6%) to 209,188 (42.4%). In fact, more people turned out to vote in the marijuana referendum than in the presidential race! I wonder if anyone is going to mention that to soon-to-be Attorney General Sessions.

So what about Zinke's soon-to-be former seat? If Herr Spencer is the candidate... well, can Montana Democrats get that lucky? But even if, as is likely, Spencer is defeated in a primary by a more garden variety Republican or chickens out entirely, Montana shouldn't be off-limits to a good Democrat. Although Tester has transmogrified into corporate shit, he first ran as a progressive and populist and beat a sitting senator. This time Zinke beat moderate Democrat Denise Juneau 285,358 (56.2%) to 205,919 (40.5%). Zinke won more votes than Trump and Juneau won more votes-- a lot more votes-- than Hillary. But Zinke had to spend big to win-- $5,824,421 to Juneau's $2,603,797. Although the DCCC didn't help at all, Pelosi's House Majority PAC spent $735,251 in Montana on Juneau's behalf.

Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that Trump screws up royally-- and fast-- and that Paul Ryan starts the process of taking away people's health insurance and threatening their Social Security and that Montana voters turn sour on Trump and the GOP-- and vote for a Democrat? It shouldn't be andmy first instinct is to say that it's worth an effort by a solid progressive... like Franke Wilmer. It's certainly worth remembering that in their primary, Montana picked Bernie over Hillary 51.5- 44.6% and that Bernie won 40 of the state's 56 counties. But to have any chance of winning that seat, the establishment and progressive wings of the Montana Democratic Party would have to get on the same page-- and with enough gusto to even be willing to write checks. The only candidate who could bring the party together and win the seat would be former Governor Brian Schweitzer. Montanans would love that. And if Schweitzer really wants to run against Trump in 2020...

Although Montana has a law allowing the governor to appoint an interim congressmember to fill a vacancy before a special election, Bullock has indicated he won't be doing that. (There will be no primaries in either party. County central committee members will select each party's nominee and there's likely to be a special election in May or June.)

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