Steve Bullock pulled off a big deal today, naming as his running mate the commander of the armed forces in Montana, head of the National Guard, Brigadier General John Walsh.
Once again, a smart Democrat is making inroads into a traditionally Republican place–the military. Walsh will bring thousands of votes that normally would not go to a Democratic candidate. He is highly respected among the troops in Montana and has deep roots in the state. Last year there had been some rumors about him possibly running for Congress this year, but this suits him better, I believe.
It’s not great news for the previous top military star in Montana, Ryan Zinke (who is also a Cowgirl commenter). Zinke is a former Navy Seal who got lots of ink in the wake of the Bin Laden raid because it was conducted by Zinke’s former Seal Team Six, which he commanded in the 90s. Zinke will unfortunately now have to take a back seat to Walsh. While Walsh shines, Zinke must deal with the humiliating antics of his boss, Neil Livingstone (a.k.a. 007), for a few months more before their ticket goes down the tubes in the June primary.
One must wonder why Zinke was not picked by Rick Hill. Likely, it is because Zinke is a moderate who believes in a clean environment and has butted heads with Tea Party types. There is no longer any room in the GOP for that type of thing. Consider, too, that in a bygone era, someone like Walsh might have been a natural Republican. No more. If you are a level-headed, educated and accomplished leader, you can no longer coexist within a political party that has become a bunch of apes.
I’d say the Walsh pick is a dagger to Republicans. Walsh is not only Guard Commander but led a battalion in Iraq as well, so he’s a decorated veteran. The last time we saw the GOP dealing with veterans, it was Denny Rehberg fighting for a statue of Jesus. The time before that, it was when Rehberg’s goons at the Republican Party were busy secretly cancelling the voting rights of Montanans who were fighting in Iraq (and also of a decorated World War II veteran)–all because these folks were considered a risk to vote for Barack Obama.
Let’s assume for argument’s sake that Guard members and soldiers have historically voted 70-30 Republican. That goes down to 50-50 for Bullock at a bare minimum, probably much more. And Walsh brings tremendous geographic assets too, having ties to Great Falls, Butte and Helena.
Meanwhile, likely GOP nominees Rick Hill and Jon Sonju, both from the Flathead, neither with any compelling personal story, both with significant baggage, will simply have to grin and bear it. They will be out of money in June, having fought off Stapleton and the others.
And so things look good for Bullock.