Jeff Essmann’s public appearances post-session have not been pleasant for him. Everywhere he’s gone the state Senator from Billings has been hounded by by large numbers of angry protestors, upset with Essmann over the his notorious medical marijuana stance. So when the Republican announced his campaign for Governor, Essmann did it the only way he could find to avoid the angry crowds: on a conference call. And a hilariously bad one at that.
Office workers of the world know conference calls as among the dullest examples of life-sucking time wastes out there. This call was no exception. The call was moderated by State Senator Jason Priest (R-Red Lodge), who did his best to infuse false energy with a stream of inane manufactured pep. Essmann was verbally high-fived by Priest after every statement with comments like “That’s sensational!” or “That’s really excellent!” The calls were mostly scripted, softballs like “Mr. Essmann, what will you do to get this economy moving?” or “Mr. Essmann, I’m pro life. Are you?” and similar such rot.
Though it doesn’t bode well for Essmann that at one point, there was a planted caller who asked a scripted question that he was unable to answer. “Mr. Essmann, how do I join your campaign effort?” Essmann fumbled a little and said “Jason Priest knows about that. He’ll handle that.”
One or two callers did get through with more adult questions. One woman asked him whether he believed, like 83% of Montanans in a recent poll, that state government is currently being managed with great fiscal success, the highest rating of any state in America. “What do you think about that?” the caller asked. Interestingly, Essmann refused to take the bait and criticize Schweitzer. He fumbled a bit, but then said simply “we can do better.” So far, only GOP primary candidate Rick Hill has taken a shot at Schweitzer, though it was a bad investment because Schweitzer has casually humiliated him on a few subsequent occasions (like at the Democratic Convention in Great Falls, when he said that Hill “started his career down the street at the Sip ‘n Dip.”)
The intriguing thing about Essman’s campaign is that the Rehberg brain trust of Jake Eaton and Dustin Frost has gotten behind Essmann’s candidacy. Given that Rehberg is at the top of the GOP food chain in Montana, it can be assumed that that Rehberg is behind Essmann as well. I don’t believe guys like Frost and Eaton would leave the nest, nor Rehberg release his goons to go off and work a campaign, unless Denny were supporting the candidate.
Unfortunately for Frost and Eaton, Essmann is hopelessly boring and insolent, and has almost nothing to offer beyond a series of meaningless Republican talking points that sound like they came from out of a can that has been sitting on the shelf too long. He’s a flatliner who spent an hour
talking reading from a script on his town hall phone call but didn’t produce one original thought or idea.
So if the GOP’s top notch operatives think Rick Hill is the wrong horse and are trying to get behind an alternative, then Steve Bullock is one lucky man.