1 August 2017 — 1717 mdt
Tester’s a stronger candidate than Rosendale reckons
Montana Auditor Matt Rosendale yesterday announced he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Jon Tester, who’s running for a third term. Rosendale joins State Senator Albert Olszewski, M.D., (Kalispell), Troy Downing (Bozeman), Ron Murray (Belgrade), and possibly Russell Fagg (Billings) in believing that given President Trump’s popularity in Montana, and Tester’s history of close elections, the burly farmer from Big Sandy is ripe to be replaced.
A more careful reading of the tea leaves suggests otherwise.
Tester won with pluralities in the throw the bums out midterm election of 2006, and the presidential election of 2012. In both elections, the Libertarian candidate diverted votes from the Republican candidate. And in 2006, the turnout was extraordinarily high. Those factors, I argued in June, suggest Tester will have a hard time winning in 2018.
That’s the conventional wisdom — and it’s probably wrong.
The fact that Tester faces a tough campaign for re-election does not mean he’s the underdog. Beating three-term incumbent Conrad Burns in 2006 was no mean feat. Although 71 and clearly losing his mojo, the folksy Burns was still a formidable candidate. Six years later, and now the incumbent, Tester defeated another formidable opponent, six-term congressman, and former Montana Lieutenant Governor and legislator, Dennis Rehberg. Tester’s margin of victory over Rehberg was three times that of his victory over Burns.
Tester’s a tougher candidate, a wilier politician, than the conventional wisdom suggests. He’s one of the best at raising money, with $4.7 million in the bank and more money rolling in every day. And while he exhibits a Blue Dog’s disdain for single-payer health care, thus far he’s been steadfast in opposing Republican attempts to deprive tens of millions of Americans of the health insurance they obtained through the Affordable Care Act.
There is, of course, plenty of money available for Republican candidates who can convince donors they have a decent chance of winning. Although Rosendale has deep pockets, and self-funded his loss to Ryan Zinke in the 2014 Republican primary for the U.S. House, Senate elections are so expensive he’ll have to tap the national pool of far right money. So will Olszewski, et al. If Rosendale does raise millions from donors other than himself, some of his Republican adversaries may drop out of the contest or decide not to file for the office.
Generally, reports Mike Dennison at KXLH, Rosendale, a millionaire real estate developer, stands on a platform of hard right planks that favor the wealthy and powerful:
Rosendale also said he favors lowering federal income-tax rates for businesses and individuals, getting rid of the tax on multimillion-dollar estates, and Trump’s agenda of peeling back regulations he says impedes business development and jobs.
A movement conservative who shoots drones and cuddles with the Oath Keepers, Rosendale supports Republican attempts to repeal the ACA. That will make him popular with the Trump-Ryan-McConnell trinity, but not with the overwhelming majority of Americans and Montanans who want the ACA improved, or replaced with a single-payer system, not gutted by heartless ideologues. As long as Tester stands firm on the ACA, and does not succumb to the temptation to cut a deal for a little bit of repeal, voters will punish Rosendale for his position on health care.
There’s more. Be sure to read the rest of Dennison’s story, and today’s report by Don Pogreba at The Montana Post.