Will Montana Forget Bullock's Far-Left Presidential Bid?
It was no secret that Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana has an oversized ego. He’s the guy who promised he was going to “take our democracy back” when he announced his disastrous presidential bid in May.
Instead, he took a shellacking and exited the Democratic nomination battle with the same “less than 1%” support in December that he had when he started.
He’s also the guy who said repeatedly for the last 10 months that he had no interest in running for Senate against incumbent Republican Steve Daines, even though he was being wooed as the only viable option the Democrats had for gaining enough seats this year to strip Mitch McConnell of his near-absolute power as majority leader.
Moreover, Bullock gave himself a once-over from the perspective of a human-resources officer and declared he wasn’t a good fit for the job of senator. He told the Montana Standard that he wasn’t sure he would “find being a senator that compelling.” Similarly, after telling MSNBC he had the “skills and abilities” to make a great executive, he said, “I have great respect for the senators, but this is something that never really got me excited."
Then, on the final weekend before candidate filing closed last week, we learned that Bullock would run for Senate after all.
So what changed?
Apparently a visit from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did the trick. Schumer, who can match Bullock pound for pound as an overinflated egoist, visited Bullock here in Montana in February. According to former Sen. Max Baucus, “the meeting of Schumer, Bullock and their wives was key to the decision.”
Gosh, that must have been a great motivational speech because all of a sudden, Bullock thought being a senator in the Potomac swamp was a perfect way to wind down after 16 years in statewide office in Helena (he was attorney general for eight years before being elevated to governor).
Or maybe Bullock just can’t shake the presidential bug. The first day out of the gate, he was recycling presidential campaign slogans like “I’m running so we can make Washington work more like Montana.”
Come to think of it, maybe he was recycling Sen. Jon Tester’s 2006 campaign slogans. Before Tester became a well-fed fat-cat Democrat fundraiser, he was all about putting the swamp through a rinse cycle. “Isn’t it time Washington started to look a little like Montana?” he asked.
Hmm, well past time. Just doesn’t look like the task is that easy. Every time we send a goodwill ambassador from the Big Sky to the Big Swamp, it’s Big Trouble.
Maybe the problem is that we Montanans are a bit star-struck by the pomp and circumstance of the institutions of democracy and a bit naive about our own ability to polish the silver without pocketing a spoon or two.
When Bullock announced his presidential pipedream, Politico reported the devastating assessment of one Democratic senator that “There are three or four people in L.A. that are excited about his [presidential] candidacy. Otherwise, everyone else wants him to run for the Senate out here.” The senator said there was still hope that Bullock would change his mind about running for the upper chamber because his presidential plan was “so f-ing stupid.”
But that was then. This is now. The stupid part today is that Bullock did change his mind, and that will make all the difference.
As the New York Times pointed out when Bullock was announcing his presidential candidacy, it was a good thing that the governor had firmly ruled out any possibility of running for Senate.
“Were he to change his mind,” reporter Jonathan Martin explained, “Mr. Bullock may have imperiled his prospects for a Senate bid by coming out in favor of a ban on semiautomatic weapons; he took that stance in 2018 after presenting himself as a defender of gun rights during his campaigns for governor and attorney general.”
It turned out that by the end of the campaign, Bullock was not just against semiautomatic weapons, but also favored limits on ammunition magazines and enforcing a longer waiting period to purchase firearms. Since he intends to run for Senate from gun-rich Montana, it is hard to know how he can possibly survive his brief shining moment as an anti-Second-Amendment crusader.
After all, Bullock’s main claim to fame is that he was reelected by a modest four percentage points the same year when Donald Trump carried Montana by 20. In other words, his moderate shtick was working, but now Gov. Bullock is caught between a lie and a hard place. He lied when he said he would never (What “never”? Well, hardly ever!) run for Senate, and he got himself stuck in a hard place when he thought he never needed to run for office in Montana again, and therefore adopted the far-left rhetoric of Beto O’Rourke that casts Montana’s hunters and family defenders as dangers to society.
Meanwhile, there’s poor Sen. Schumer scrambling to build an unlikely 51-seat majority in the chamber by convincing himself that Bullock’s damaged goods will sell off the rack to Montana voters who were so busy being good citizens that they didn't notice the wool being pulled over their eyes.