Friday, August 17, 2012

Montana Governor Race

Race of the  Day

Montana Governor

August 17, 2012
81 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2008 Presidential Result: Red State (West)

Outlook: Tossup (R)

Living far outside of Big Sky County, it is a bit difficult for me to offer much insight on what might be going on in this race. The U.S. Senate contest in Montana will get the most national attention of the races there this year, and that might likely come down to national considerations, such as which party should control the Senate. In the Gubernatorial contest, it is more likely to be decided on local considerations.

Montana is looked upon as a pretty conservative place, but after a long stretch of GOP Governors, Democrat Brian Schweitzer won the office eight years ago, and he is now term-limited from seeking a third victory. At last I heard, Schweitzer was still reasonably popular in the state, which likely has much more to do with his folksy, populist persona, despite some liberal positions and a penchant for saying some outrageous things from time to time, such as recently referring to his citizens as "racist" and "rednecks". One of the ways that Schweitzer was able to appeal to a cross-section of voters in the state was to pick a Republican politician to run with him on the Democrat ticket and serve as Lt. Governor.

With Schweitzer leaving the scene (and his Lt. Governor declining to run) a slew of candidates, Democrats, Republicans, and other, lined up to try to replace him. The primary was settled and June and the two men considered the front-runners in each party were nomination. Democrats are putting on Steve Bullock, the state's Attorney General, while the Republican nominee is Rick Hill, an attorney and businessman who served as Montana's member in the House of Representatives for two terms in the 1990s, before leaving politics due to a temporary health problem. In Montana, candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor are not only elected together in the fall, but are nominated as a team in the primary. Bullock's Democrat running-mate is John Walsh, a retired military officer, who resigned as his state's Adjutant General, in order to run for office. Running with Hill on the GOP ticket is State Senator Jon Sonju. While most potential Democrat candidates eventually ceded the field to Bullock, Hill had to face several opponents in the primary and won by a solid margin.

Polling on the general election has most recently showed a basically tied race, while earlier in the cycle, Hill had a lead. That could be indication that the state, which is expected to easily go Republican on the Presidential level, could be in the mood for a change after eight years of a Democrat as Governor. However, the Democrats have likely nominated the strongest candidate for the job they could have. Both Bullock and Hill have won statewide before, but Bullock has more recently.

Since the primary, Hill has easily outraised Bullock, which means he will have the most adequate resources to advertise in the large, but sparsely populated state. I do not claim to know the main issues of this race at the present time, I assume they will be involving wolves and whatnot, but with a highly polarized electorate nationally at the federal level, Republicans in a place like Montana will start off with at least a small edge down the ballot, and I will consider Hill the favorite to win a close election and regain the Governorship for the GOP.

Hill campaign link:
2012 Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 2 D, 2 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 14 D, 1 I, 28 R