Montana governor Steve Bullock has had a slow start to his presidential campaign. Entering the race late, Bullock failed to qualify for the first debate in Miami. After securing a spot in the Detroit debate last month, the two-term Montana governor spoke for just 11 minutes — on par with other candidates polling at around one percent, but significantly less than front-runners Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Hoping to generate some much-needed attention, Gov. Bullock visited the National Press Club in Washington DC this week to talk about his campaign to a room full of reporters. After a boozy brunch, Cockburn, delinquent on his Press Club dues, snuck into the event unnoticed.
Bullock, who has fought for stronger campaign finance regulation as both attorney general and governor of Montana, has focused his campaign on eliminating the ‘cesspool of dark money and influence’ in the nation’s capital.
Reflecting on the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the governor argued before 30 or so journalists that campaign finance reform is needed to pass gun control measures in Congress: ‘We need to acknowledge that the NRA and other extremist groups have a stranglehold on our politics and that stranglehold is caused by fists full of dark money.’
While this talk of sinister influence would fit in at a Sanders or Warren rally, Gov. Bullock was careful to distance himself from the septuagenarian progressive candidates. On healthcare, Bullock warned the elimination of private health insurance, which Sens. Sanders and Warren support, would guarantee President Trump’s reelection: ‘You simply cannot upend the health coverage of 180 million Americans on the promise of something better — especially when you don’t need to in order to give every American affordable healthcare.’
Shifting to immigration, Gov. Bullock noted how government-provided healthcare for undocumented immigrants, which has become a popular idea among other Democratic candidates, would turn off millions of Americans with private health insurance and could ‘create a magnet for even more [immigrants] without documentation.’ Rolling out a prepared zinger for the junior senator from Vermont, Bullock commented the proposal ‘might work in Burlington,’ but ‘it won’t sell in Billings.’ A brutal line, Cockburn thought, for a man as recently minted as an ice cream flavor.
In a head-to-head with President Trump, Bullock believes these moderate stances will be more successful with voters in the general election: ‘I guarantee you if I’m the nominee — I’ll place a bet right here with all of you — that I’m going to carry Vermont, Massachusetts, and California, but I wonder if the senators from Vermont, Massachusetts, and California can make that same guarantee about carrying Montana, or Michigan, or Wisconsin, or Pennsylvania.’
Aside from committing a potential FEC violation by betting on his own campaign, Cockburn wonders if Bullock is getting ahead of himself given his 0.7 percent polling average. The Montana governor must first win the party nomination and there seems to be little appetite for the red-state Democrat. How does Gov. Bullock plan to win the nomination?
‘We are 180 days away from the first voter actually expressing their preference, right? And Survivor, only 19 contestants, that only took about 16 weeks. We have 52 weeks to go here.’
While Bullock plans to grind it out, Cockburn wonders if the governor will be voted off the island before the Iowa Caucus in February. To make the cut for next month’s presidential debate, Gov. Bullock must hit two percent in four different polls and receive 130,000 individual donations. So far, the governor has failed to reach two percent in a single national poll and has only generated 22.4 percent of his $2 million in campaign funds from small individual donors.
Despite his poor numbers, Bullock could find inspiration to keep up the good fight. As he notes, this presidential election is the most important of our lifetimes because President Trump ‘will pull the plug’ on the American Dream if reelected.
In a competitive and progressive Democratic presidential field, though, Cockburn wonders if it would be best for Bullock and the great state of Montana if the governor pulled the plug on his own presidential campaign.
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