I realize that I'm a little bit late to the party now, but I was really busy in the last few days- I'm working with two other guys on an algorithm to rate pollsters and accurately project races based on polls- that will most likely be prominently featured at Pollster.com and rival Nate Silver's ratings over at 538.com.
Anyway, today I read the last couple of posts over at Flathead Memo, and saw the graph posted by James Conner under the headline 'Where Gopher won big, Gernant lost big'.
But is that true? Well, obviously it is, but it doesn't seem to be a huge surprise. When four candidates compete for 100% of the vote, it's no surprise that one candidate does badly where another candidate does well. The bigger question is, were the candidates disproportionately hurt in the counties where Melinda Gopher did well, or could James just as well have written a post titled 'Where Gopher won big, Gernant, McDonald and Rankin lost big'?
I'm not really interested in the question if Gopher hurt Rankin, but we can look at her influence on the Gernant/McDonald race by introducing the new metric 'Gernant TwoWay vote'- which is eliminating Gopher and Rankin votes and is defined as Gernant%*100/(Gernant%+McDonald%).
If we build a scatterplot for Melinda% and Gernant TwoWay vote, it looks like this:
There doesn't seem to be a particularly good relationship, and indeed, if we regress Gopher's vote share (and a constant) on Tyler TwoWay, it is insignificant (p-value .29).
That means that Gernant didn't lose particularly badly compared to McDonald where Gopher did well.
We can perform the same analysis for Sam Rankin of course, here's the scatterplot:
And here there IS some weak relation between the variables, with Gernant doing slightly worse where Rankin was doing well (upper left corner).
It's not too strong either though, the p value is .11 (which means that there is the chance of this occuring by chance is 11%- 5% is considered good enough to draw some conclusions by most statisticians, 11% is not). The coefficient of Rankin% is -.41, which basically means that for each percentage point Rankin got, Tyler lost .4% to Dennis McDonald in the two-way vote.
Some more analysis suggests why that may have been the case: Dennis McDonald was doing very badly in places where a lot of people identify their ancestry as 'American'- Gernant was doing okay with them, Rankin performed very well there. That suggests that if Rankin had not been in the race, those people would probably have gone for Gernant over McDonald. BTW, 'American' (or, as we could also dub it, white trash) is the only variable of even some predictive value for the vote share of Sam Rankin- he did not well with them, McDonald in turn did. But apart from that I'm at a loss as to why Rankin did as well as he did- and that almost everywhere, from Missoula over Big Horn to Garfield.
'American' identifiers, for what it's worth, tend to be disproportionately Republican, White and without health insurance.
They just aren't a huge enough voting group in Democratic primaries (in Montana at least) to swing the election alone though, which means that Gernant would most likely have lost in any case- with Gopher and Rankin in the race or without them. He might have picked up more of their votes than McDonald would have done, but not by such a prohibitive margin that he could have closed in- a two-way election might have resulted in a 56-44 McDonald win.
Anyway, we're not only interested in the influence of Gopher and Rankin on the race, we're also interested in which demographic groups Gernant and McDonald had their strengths.
So...it's looking like Brad Johnson lost his bid for PSC district 5 by about 120 votes to Bill Gallagher -- only he's not conceding the race, "because the district still has some uncounted provisional ballots." If Johnson's right, and the provisional ballots favor him, we could be in an interesting situation where the GOP PSC nominee will be spending a good chunk of election season in rehab.
Which would be hilarious, if it weren't so pathetic.
"It seems to me that the congressional results are not surprising, because party establishment voters chose party establishment candidates," said James Lopach, a University of Montana political science professor. "Primary turnout is usually pretty much party-faithful voters. Rehberg and McDonald were clearly the party establishment candidates, and they won."
A good example would be the House contest between former state Sen. John Esp and Joel Boniek in Park and Sweetgrass counties. Boniek was one of the wildest of the right-wing wild bunch in the last legislative session, but was edged out by Esp who told reporters that he "knew the people" in his district and they "weren't going to be jumping on these kinds of bandwagons." His win was echoed by similar results in which Chas Vincent of Libby, a definite right-winger, defeated Rhoda Cargill almost 4-to-1, despite her endorsement by extreme conservatives. The same thing happened in Dillon, with Jeff Wellborn defeating Ron Lake. The radical right can claim at least a few wins, however, such as MCA-supported candidate Lee Randall's victory in southeast Montana. But overall, their efforts bore little fruit.
So much for this being an election about anti-incumbency and outsider politics...
In one of the first analysis posts written on Tuesday's election, John Connor posited over at Flathead Memo that early voting might have hurt Tyler Gernant's chances.
I'm in the fortunate position to have downloaded the election returns several times during election night, so that I have some information on absentee counts (that were reported in one bunch initially) in contrast to the final results.
So, doing some actual number crunching on this, is John right? Yes, he is. While Tyler wouldn't have won without early voting either, he would have been a bit closer.
In most small, rural counties, his election day and absentee counties weren't much different, and the difference was certainly not statistically significant. Neither were they in the Flathead, where Tyler was fairly well known and campaigned a lot (and overperformed his statewide results both in the early and election day results). Or in Helena, where, I think, the electorate is pretty aware politically and therefore knew most candidates even back when the absentee ballots were sent out. The trend wasn't there in Great Falls either.
It did make a huge difference in Missoula though, where popular mayor John Engen endorsed him late in the game. He actually narrowly lost the Missoula absentees to McDonald, but crushed his opposition on election day, winning 57% in a four-way race- comparable to McDonald putting up 65% in Sweet Grass County.
In Billings, he also overperformed his early-vote total, winning a bit more than 30% of the election day vote and less than 20% of the early vote.
Roughly the same numbers hold up in Bozeman, where he won 17% of the absentees and 29% of the election day vote.
In Butte, that was canceled out by late union support for McDonald, so that the percentages stayed about the same.
If there hadn't been early voting and the absentee voters would have changed their minds the same way the election day voters seem to have done, Tyler would still have lost, but it would have been a bit narrower. I estimate that the result would have been
But, this is an impressive result for both Mayor Engen and Tyler's GOTV team, who heavily worked Missoula in the last few days. They managed to swing the race by about 25%!
Next up- how did Gopher and Rankin influence the McDonald/Gernant race?
But the vote totals for Melinda Gopher and Sam Rankin, and the lower than expected total for Tyler Gernant, are surprises. Gopher and Rankin were running soapbox candidacies on a shoestring. I expected each to receive around five percent of the vote. And I expected a much closer race between McDonald and Gernant.
What happened? Two things, I think.
First, I believe that early voting hurt Gernant. His campaign gathered steam during the last half of May, but by then a lot of Democrats, the ones who reject the idea that they have a responsibility to keep their minds open until the campaign ends, had voted - and a lot of them voted for McDonald. Early voting almost always helps the initially better known candidate.
Second, most Democrats understood that none of the Democratic candidates had an ice cube's chance in a blast furnace of beating Rehberg. That provided an opportunity to cast a protest vote against the Democratic establishment, which was represented by McDonald and Gernant.
Your guess is as good as mine, folks. In any election that gives Sam Rankin 16 percent of the vote in a four-way race, you've got to scratch your head. It's not random -- that's only a few points lower than you'd expect if all Democratic primary voters cast their ballots randomly. It's not cross-over voters: Republicans actually had a race in the US House, and a lot more disputed and contentious legislative primaries. (Not to mention county commissioner races.) A protest vote, as Connor suggests? That assumes the voters are very well informed -- they'd have to know who the "establishment" candidate is, and who the outsiders were -- and thinking strategically.
Let's be frank, people. This is the second year in a row that Montanans in large numbers picked irrational candidates in the primary. In 2008, it was Driscoll and Kelleher. And that time around, we blamed new voters turned out for the Clinton-Obama brouhaha who were uninformed about the down-ticket races and lost in the blizzard of candidates on the primary ballot. But this year, turnout was low, and the US House race was the showcase event. Was it really a conscious decision?
(Note that Republican voters, on the other hand, supported Dennis Rehberg nearly unanimously, despite warnings that we were facing an "anti-incumbent" tidal wave.)
As jhwygirl notes, Gernant's campaign has been picking up steam. Good for him. He's earned it. Some of the comments from posts jhwygirl linked to...
James Conner: "I'm voting for Tyler Gernant...He's a young man with considerable intelligence and promise who the strongest - and the strongest by far - of the four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Montana's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives....
"Gernant, by comparison, is hungry. He's running a tightly organized campaign, a tactically brilliant campaign that inspires his supporters. Gernant, not McDonald, is the future of the Democratic Party in Montana. My sole complaint, and it's not a trivial complaint, is that he sometimes pussyfoots around issues, has trouble giving a strong, straight answer to a straight question, and does not exhibit the degree of historical vision that I believe we need in Congress. He's very much focused on the here and now, on Montana and the present....
"Gernant's reticence on this is one reason why I've waited so long to endorse him. The other is my deep and abiding anger, fury to be blunt, at the Democratic Party for bungling health care, the kind of anger that makes a man unwilling, indeed unable, to make the Hobson's Choices that politics requires. But a comparative lack of historical vision is an affliction of youth that time will cure. The counterweights are Gernant's energy and optimism, and his sparkling intelligence. McDonald represents the past. Montana should hitch its future to Gernant's rising star."
Pogie: "I think Tyler Gernant wins this race narrowly tomorrow. While Dennis McDonald certainly had an advantage in name recognition and connection to the party establishment, Gernant's had a much more energetic and visible campaign. Here in Helena and driving around the state (admittedly the Western part for the most part), I've seen more signs for Gernant and he has been much more active in the traditional media and the the 'net. It's going to be close, but I think Gernant wins with 50-55% of the vote in a four person race.
"If Gernant does indeed win, it's time for the traditional labor power brokers to reconsider their approach a bit. I don't think they have the influence in Montana progressive politics that they used to-or still seem to imagine that they do. A Gernant win would be a further sign of that diminished role."
And here's a pretty cool video from the Gernant campaign, touting Tyler's online efforts:
Okay...before I explain the reasons I'm supporting Tyler Gernant for U.S. Congress, I want to remind anyone who's still undecided to check out the profiles of all the Democratic House candidates I've posted: Dennis McDonald, Sam Rankin, Tyler Gernant, and Melinda Gopher. Obviously this endorsement is one man's opinion; the links and videos and articles on each candidate will help you make up your own mind, and based on the policies and positions of each, not on the word of a political hack.
So...after all of that, I suspect you, like me, will come to the same conclusion: Tyler Gernant is the best candidate for US House, and he deserves your vote in the impending primary.
Dennis McDonald and Melinda Gopher also good candidates, of course. McDonald's a stand-up guy, a real mensch, and has served the Democratic party faithfully and well for years. And Gopher's record as an activist is exemplary. She's a fighter, absolutely dedicated to the causes she believes in.
But I'm endorsing Tyler Gernant.
There are a number of considerations. First, his policy portfolio is right on, as he's campaigning around a green economy - absolutely crucial on so many levels. Environmentally, it's the best chance we have of dramatically reducing carbon pollution while preserving our way of life. Economically, it's a chance - and a short-lived one, at that - to rebuild the country's manufacturing base. Politically, it's a golden opportunity to unite labor and environmentalism towards a common cause. Gernant is also campaigning around pragmatic, progressive financial reform that would make taxation fairer for working- and middle-class Americans, while reducing our nation's deficit. He's the only candidate in this election that speaks to the problem of Montana's young people leaving the state -- even as they'd prefer to stay -- to look for work, benefits, and affordable living, which is an issue that's resonates strongly with me on a personal level...
And he's in favor of a Constitutional Amendment protecting privacy! Which is cool.
But to be honest, there's not much difference between the Democratic candidates on policy. This isn't like the Republican primary, where the future of the GOP lies in the hands of the voters tomorrow. Dennis McDonald, for example, does support the Otter Creek coal venture, unlike Gernant; and Gopher emphasizes more than any other candidate using the office to work with and provide more aid to rural communities and communities in poverty. But all three candidates generally share the same values. And then there's Rankin who...well...does want to slash Medicare and Social Security benefits.
Which brings us to a second consideration: how is Gernant as a political candidate? And, here, Gernant wins hands-down over any other House candidate of either party. There's nobody, of either party, who works harder. Nobody. Period. He's been at this thing for, what? Over a year? Relentlessly hitting the phones and raising funds, relentlessly traveling the state and talking with voters. His campaign is slick, his videos are professional, the whole effort is mature and serious and ready for prime time.
Compare that to, say, Dennis McDonald's lackluster fundraising and his lack of verve required of a legitimate candidate expecting to take on a long-time and deep-pocketed incumbent. If he struggles to ward off Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno questions from a College Republican with hand-held video, how's he going to beat off the crippling negative campaigning from the Republican Party's varsity squad? Still McDonald, at least, raises money and understands how to run for office, which is more than you can say of Melinda Gopher, who entered the race late, has raised next to no money, and went negative, wildly lashing out against the other candidates, the party, and EMILY's List, among others, and squandered her opportunity to challenge Gernant and McDonald to match her passion for economic justice. And Sam Rankin, well, he's John Driscoll 2.0 with weirder politics.
Tyler Gernant is an excellent candidate and can win this race in November. And given his understanding of the political process and his campaign skills, I have no doubt he'll have the energy, single-minded determination, and patience to do battle and prevail in the US House of Representatives on behalf of the people of Montana.
I get the feeling that the situation in the Dem primary is getting a bit out of hand here in the blogosphere.
We're all Democrats, and we agree on 95% of our policy ideas. Dennis McDonald is a good Democrat. Tyler Gernant is a good Democrat. Melinda Gopher is a good Democrat. Sam Rankin... well, okay, forget it, probably.
But what I'm trying to say is that, well, our main focus should be on beating Rehberg. And if there is some friendly competition about who should be selected to do that, all the better.
But lately we're busy sniping at each other in blog comments here and over at 4&20 blackbirds and now DailyKos. I don't like that, even though I admit that I participated in it.
Last summer, when I was a full-time intern for a month with Tyler's campaign, I talked to Dennis at Sen. Baucus' Sieben Ranch fundraiser for Jon Tester. And even though I was wearing a Tyler sticker, he was 100% friendly and told me that 'in the end, all that matters is that we're Democrats. It's all about beating Rehberg.'
And I'm sure that Tyler agrees with that.
So let's just dial the rhetoric down a little bit and pledge to get behind the primary winner on Tuesday, whoever that will be.
That doesn't mean that we can't blog about or advocate for our favorites, but I think that Pres. Reagan had one good idea with his 11th commandment-- 'Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican'.
It's certainly more productive than having endless fights on the metrics that should be used to compare fundraising records.
Bio: (garnered from his website): Gernant's "great grandfather homesteaded near Whitetail," and both his grandfathers were working stiffs (one drove a truck in Great Falls, the other worked in the Anaconda smelter). Gernant's parents moved to Idaho Falls in the 1980s. A graduate of Georgetown, Gernant later worked for Senator Max Baucus and Representative Dan Baird, and worked on John Edwards' 2004 [not '08 -- JS] presidential campaign. After the campaign, Gernant "returned to Idaho Falls and spent time substitute teaching" before attending law school in Missoula, where he co-found the Rural Advocacy League.
Issues: Gernant's main plank revolves around a Green economy. He advocates "incentives for businesses and entrepreneurs who are ready to invest in Montana's clean, renewable, and sustainable energy resources," promotes investing in a "smarter, more efficient power grid," and invest in primary and secondary education to create "clean and sustainable energy jobs that will last beyond our limited natural resources."
Gernant also advocates an Afghan mission that's "limited in time"; financial reform that builds consumer protection and "eliminate[s] predatory lending"; simplifying the tax code and closing loopholes; reinstating the Congressional "pay-go" system to prevent further national debt spending; a Constitutional amendment that protects Americans' privacy; and implementing a Rural Investment Tax Credit that would spur investment in rural areas.
From "Tyler Gernant for Congress," by jhwygirl: "I've had the opportunity to meet and speak with Tyler on more than a few occasions. Gernant is one hard working candidate (I'm betting he's crisscrossed this entire state nearly twice already). He'll meet with anyone, and I'm thoroughly impressed with his dedication.
"Tyler's smart, he's knowledgeable about tax law and tax code and I believe he will go to Washington seeking forward-moving change."
From "Tyler Gernant Answers Policy Questions," on Intelligent Discontent: (Gernant answering a question about Rehberg's self-imposed moratorium on appropriating earmarks for Montana) "Rehberg's pledge is an empty political gesture that's more about party politics than what is right for Montana. In fact, shortly before making this pledge, Congressman Rehberg discussed the federal budget deficit and earmarks, stating 'earmarks are not the problem.' This is just another example of Rehberg marching lock-step with his party at the expense of helping people in Montana."
Democrats campaign for U.S. House seat: "Gernant said he is running for office because he sees firsthand how the problems plaguing the nation are impacting his clients, friends and neighbors, and he wants to do something about it.
"'I had seen a bunch of my friends lose their jobs and leave Montana, and a few of the businesses that I represented lost their lines of credit due to the credit crunch, and ended up having to close down,' Gernant said. 'I really felt like there is a lot we ought to be doing to help those people succeed. That's what drove me into the race.'"
Candidate Statements - U.S. House seat - Tyler Gernant: "First of all, we need to stop writing IOUs to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. The government doesn't let us raid our retirement accounts for frivolous spending; why let our government get away with it?
"We also need to end the use-it-or-lose-it budget system in Washington. Federal agencies are encouraged to spend every penny they have because, if they don't, they'll get less money next year. We need to change this system so agencies are encouraged to spend wisely and save for the future, just like we do in our own households.
"And, finally, we need to focus on getting Montana's economy moving again. The best way to do that is by investing in the new energy economy. I recently went on a New Energy Tour throughout Montana, visiting with business people who are already putting solar, wind and bio-fuel technology to efficient, profitable use. As a congressman I'll work to promote the growth of this industry, which can bring hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of sustainable jobs to Montana and Butte in particular."
"However, McDonald's $18,000 loan the past seven weeks boosted his total campaign receipts for the period to about $28,450. For the entire campaign, McDonald has loaned his campaign more than $27,800, compared with Gernant's previous loan of more than $1,800."
McDonald's figure doesn't include the $18,000 he loaned himself in just this last reporting period - this brings his total loans to his campaign to $28,835.00.
Gernant did not loan his campaign any money this last reporting period - but he has loaned himself a total of $1,800 since the beginning of his FEC reporting.
McDonald has taken a total of $2,200 in PAC contributions to Gernant's $100. But neither compares to Dennis Rehberg's total of $252,701.00, which includes $15,500.00 this reporting period (an extra $1,000 coming in May 27th from the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Assn PAC of Fredrick, MD).
Momentum means a lot - and sadly, it does and will take money to take unseat Dennis Rehberg. With Gernant outraising his opponents the last two reporting periods, and with more cash on hand, Gernant is showing the organization and the steam needed to win Montana's lone congressional seat for the Democrats.
Last month, I sent out a questionnaire about domestic issues to each of the Democratic candidates running to unseat Representative Rehberg. While I did receive a full set of responses from the Gernant campaign, I did not get a response from Melinda Gopher or Dennis McDonald. Sam Rankin did call, and told me that he had made a pledge not to speak until after the primary.
Among the answers Gernant supplied to Pogie was this, on climate change:
I believe scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that our actions contribute to global warming. It's our responsibility to find solutions to this problem. A key part of solving the problem is to promote new, sustainable ways of producing energy. There is great potential in the new energy economy, both in helping our environment and in boosting our state's economy and creating jobs. I've been on a New Energy Tour of Montana and have met with businesspeople throughout the state who are already making innovative and productive use of sustainable energy. We need to provide incentives for this type of innovation and make sustainable energy a key part of our nation's energy policy.
Well answered. Especially in light of the Obama administration and Congress' inaction in the midst of environmental catastrophe. And kudos to Gernant for answering Pogie's questions. They were more than fair, and the public should see his answers.
Now the question to the other candidates, why the dodge?
(John Firehammer is communications director for the Tyler Gernant for Congress campaign)
Democrats have a stark choice in the June 8 primary. While one candidate has articulated a clear path toward the future by advocating the development of clean, sustainable energy, another has no new ideas.
Tyler Gernant believes Montana has the potential to be a leader in the development of wind, solar and bio-fuel energy. This will bring billions of dollars and thousands of new jobs to the state.
His opponent, Dennis McDonald, on the other hand, is beholden to coal -- to the extent that he actually advocates the construction of a coal-fed generating plant at Montana's Otter Creek.
It doesn't seem to matter to McDonald that area ranchers oppose and fear coal development at Otter Creek, or that more coal is not the answer to Montana's energy and economic woes.
McDonald is firm in his support of this outmoded, short-term industry, while offering nothing in terms of policy that would move us away from our dependence on coal and foreign oil.
In short, McDonald is trapped in the past, while Tyler Gernant is poised to lead us into the future. The choice June 8 is one between new energy and old ideas.
You can hear McDonald detail his bad, backwards thoughts on energy policy here.
Interesting press release just hit my inbox from the Gernant campaign, hitting McDonald hard on his support for developing Otter Creek (going so far as to call it "Palinesque"):
At a recent candidate forum at the University of Montana, McDonald said unequivocally that he supports coal mining in Montana's Otter Creek area, stating "I have been very much in favor of developing all of our resources; coal should be a big part of it." Gernant responded, "I thought I was in a Democratic primary, but it sounds like I'm running against Sarah Palin. McDonald is using the same rhetoric to describe his energy policy that Sarah Palin used to describe her backward-thinking ideas for America's energy future."
Otter Creek is at the forefront of a lot of folks' minds. And as the last vote on the state land board indicated, the Democratic Party is very much divided on the question.
So Pete Talbot wrote up a post on a guerrilla video ambush of Dennis McDonald in which he fumbled terribly when confronted with the Jimmy Weasel story the right's trying (pretty successfully) to push as McDonald's narrative for this race.
Yeah, McDonald looked unready for this race. But then that video was shot on October 26, 2009, and I suspect that was the first he had ever encountered that line of attack. If this happened today - after McDonald had his say on the matter - I'd say the candidate McDonald was cooked.
For starters, hand it to the GOP. It's sticking. It's got to the point that even Democratic challengers are piggybacking on it. And it's got to be considered in the "electable" arguments that always rear up this time of the primary race.
For another, it's interesting that Rehberg et al went after McDonald so soon. They've been building this narrative for months. Not sure what that means. Maybe they saw him as the biggest threat. Maybe they just slammed him as soon as they got the idea.
And lastly, it's a sad state of affairs when this is the biggest story of the primary so far. In the next couple of days, I'll investigate the candidates and report back...hopefully we can do something more substantial before the primary, too.
Have to say - I'm completely undecided on this race.
Which reminds me: in the past, we've had advocates for primary candidates write posts here on Left in the West. This year is no different. If you want to write something up about McDonald, or Gopher, or Gernant - or about any primary candidate - sign in, write a diary, and I'll promote it. If you have questions or want me to look over your post before you submit it, email me...
If you believe that people who are from Montana, who have a real interest in this state and have actually set foot on Montana soil should be influencing the outcome of our elections, you'll be interested in this.
Here are the most recent Democratic congressional candidate fundraising totals based on the FEC reports as of April 24, 2010:
Dennis McDonald (D) $139,261
Tyler Gernant (D) $103,014
Sam Rankin (D) $8,639
Melinda Gopher (D) $ 0
Of the candidates, the top recipient of in-state contributions was Dennis McDonald, while the top recipient of out-of-state cash was Tyler Gernant, according to Open Secrets.
They report that McDonald raised twice as much in-state money as Gernant. That's more money from actual constituents who will be represented by the winner of this contest, people who care the most about its outcome.
It says something that McDonald has more money, but where the money comes from also speaks volumes.
Our junior Congressman continues to inspire mild agitation, using his government email list to write inanities best left for Tea Party listservs. The latest:
The health reform bill that I voted against included $5 billion for a temporary high risk pool for people with preexisting conditions. That money was supposed to last through the 2014. But this money is expected to run out by 2012.
Congressman Rehberg links to a video of him declaring that the temporary high-risk pools in the health care bill are going to run out of funds in 2012. When Secretary Sebelius repeatedly responds that it is too early to know where expenditures will come in because the pools are optional programs for states. A (very) cursory Google News search on this topic reveals that Georgia currently doesn't plan on using funds and Texas is currently undecided.
Meanwhile, an attempt to verify Congressman Rehberg's claims results in one story...in the Clark Fork Chronicle...with a byline from...Jed Link, Rehberg's communications staffer.
Regardless, I don't think any of us are eager about there being a shortfall in those funds, but it does seem like it would be hard to know if the shortfall will happen before it is clear how many states are going to use them. And I'm not sure that we'd be better off eliminating high risk pools.
But forget about that. I'm just curious what Rehberg has done in the past ten years about the deficit other than basically create it by voting for tax cuts for rich people (or, as Rehberg calls them, his peers), two wars, or an unfunded prescription drug benefit.
Jhwygirl's post covering Democratic House candidate Melinda Gopher's shot at primary opponent Dennis McDonald seems to have kicked the otherwise lackluster House Democratic primary to life.
Gopher accused McDonald of manipulating "state party strategy to position himself for this race"; suggested that he, as chair of the state Democratic party "underfunded" 2008 Democratic House candidate John Driscoll; that, although unpopular with rank-and-file Democrats, is receiving the "lion's share" of donations because of his "skin color and gender"; and said he's "unelectable" because of the GOP narrative around his legal work in California.
For me, Gopher jumped the shark on this post. For starters, it showed gross ignorance about state politics - how can you accuse Dennis McDonald of orchestrating a 2010 run at the House by denying state party funds to 2008 House Democratic candidate, John Driscoll, when Driscoll refused to take any money for his campaign? Or refused to campaign, for that matter? (And Gopher isn't even sure if Driscoll was a Republican or Democrat in that race.) Driscoll's leisurely run at Rehberg's seat was one of the most irresponsible campaigns I've ever witnessed, a wasted opportunity at extricating a do-nothing regressive Republican from Montana's sole House seat - but all of the blame lies on Driscoll, none on McDonald.
Sure, McDonald may have positioned himself for this race - but that's how you win party nominations. Working for the rank-and-file wins you support from the rank-and-file...and their donations. Race and gender may have played a part in fund-raising, but Denise Juneau showed you can raise money and win contentious primaries if you do the work and you're a quality candidate.
Yes, Ms. Gopher, wouldn't it be great if ideas were the only currency in an election? But until that day, you still need to do the groundwork to raise money and win votes. Otherwise your beautiful ideas will have to shine on the sidelines.
Whatever. Here's Pete Talbot's lovely summation of the three House candidates:
So who gets the nod? The inspirational, refreshing and candid Ojibwe woman [Melinda Gopher] - who's underfunded and not well-connected (outside of tribal politics) and is a party outsider? The other new face - the policy-smart, well-organized and politically savvy candidate with a potentially great future in Montana Democratic politics (but has a less than passionate campaign thus far) [Tyler Gernant]? Or the established, out front, Montana rancher who is the best known and may have the best demographic appeal but, is also considered a party insider (and has received the most press, both positive and negative)? [Dennis McDonald]
Quietly taking place over the last 9 months is a strange political phenomenon. Denny Rehberg is spending almost every dollar he raises.
He filed for reelection long ago, and had about $700K in the bank leftover from his previous campaign. Since then, has raised $816k and spent $706k. Worse, in the last calendar year, he's spent virtually every nickel that he has raised. For example, his quarterly FEC report, filed last week, shows that in the last quarter he raised 153K and spent 160K. That pattern extends back through the last several quarters. The expenditures are highly gratuitous--huge payments to consultants and operatives and media firms and mail houses and research firms--totally out of line with normal campaign expenditures you'd expect at this point in a campaign, showing absolutely no effort whatsoever to conserve funds.
A new candidate with great fundraising prowess but a poor understanding of how to manage a campaign's finances might engage in careless spending like this. In fact John McCain was bankrupt in late 2007 because he had pissed away money on staff and consultants unnecessarily. It happens. But Rehberg is a veteran campaigner and has not done anything like this before.
It is even more peculiar when you consider that Rehberg is the presumptive challenger to Tester in 2012, and every nickel he can save in this year's race can, under federal law, be carried over to a Senate campaign. Since he probably won't have to spend much against Gopher, McDonald or Gernant, (neither of which has any money in the bank), he would be saving every penny so he could start out against Tester with a giant war-chest.
So why would he be burning through money like he is, with crazy line-items, paying $6K a month to his campaign manager (to a kid who'd probably do it for 2K), $4 grand a month to a media consultant, $6.5K a month to Erik Iverson's consulting firm, IS LLC, and tens of thousands in charges at resorts in Las Vegas and Big Sky and lots of other things like that?
One explanation: He is going to run for Governor.
Under this theory, everything makes perfect sense. He cannot carry over money from a federal campaign to a state campaign. So, rather than hoard money that will not be usable in his next campaign, he's doing a shady, borderline-illegal, but clever thing: overpaying people, his consultants, his campaign staff, firms, etc., essentially using federal money to pre-pay for what he will need when he runs for Governor.
All these people will give him a heavily discounted rate (wink) for their services in 2012, because they will have been previously and handsomely compensated. Heck, they might even work for free (wink) because they like him so much.
And remember, too, that a Gubernatorial candidate can only raise money in $600 increments (per-donor contribution limit), whereas a Congressional candidate can raise in $2300 increments. so to be able to off-load expenses with easy-to-come-by federal campaign cash is a luxury. And yes, it's easy to come by. As we all know, when you are an incumbent Congressman, special interests in DC write you checks even if you don't ask for them. You don't raise money--you simply collect.
So I'm putting down a bet at Ladbrokes. R nominee in 2012 for Gov is Denny Rehberg.
Number one suggestion..stop spending money on failed stimulus. Tax relief!!
A full third of the ARRA was tax relief. That's why payroll withholding dropped last year. It is why there's a $400 or $800 Make Work Pay tax credit on people's returns this year.
Beyond that, the spending in the stimulus didn't fail, unless our Congressman is advocating for cutting short COBRA subsidies or unemployment insurance. Hilariously, Congressman Rehberg tweeted this yesterday, around the same time he was touring the stimulus-funded Northern Hotel renovations:
When the two reached Nelson's basement office, Rehberg's work began. The congressman inquired about what the government could do for the Northern, promising to have a staffer look for grant options and Department of Energy assistance.
A year ago, by cooperating with the city of Billings, the Northern was able to sell $20 million in tax-free "stimulus bonds" to pay for the hotel's remodeling. Investors like the government-backed, tax-free bonds, which were made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Rehberg is looking into government grant options and DoE assistance for private projects? Sounds like government spending to me.
Even worse, our Congressman is apparently aware that he's full of it:
In an interview with The Billings Gazette editorial board Tuesday, Rehberg, who opposed the ARRA and is advocating a shift toward tax cuts, said the construction projects funded by the ARRA had merit....
If Denny Rehberg thinks COBRA benefits, food stamps, unemployment, and local business projects like Northern renovation are failures, he should say so explicitly. He's trying, as always, to have it both ways.
And keep in mind when Rehberg rails about government spending that his office repeatedly calls for higher spending on numerous programs. This guy is absolutely all over the map.