When the likes of Steve Daines and other young conservatives were excitedly and breathlessly proclaiming the need to invade Iraq in 2003, people like John Walsh were dutifully donning their uniforms, grabbing their weapons, and making their way over to the desert to do the fighting, to watch their comrades die, to kill people, for a dubious cause and for roughly a trillion dollar price tag.
Now Daines will have to face Walsh in a Senate race. Walsh announced today that he is running. The Flathead Memo has a good write up here. He is a fourth generation Montanans, from Butte, commanded not only the Montana National Guard but also an army battalion in Iraq, and was in Schweitzer’s cabinet before being tapped by Bullock as Lt. Governor.
Actually, it’s not really clear whether Daines is going to run for Senate. He’s not yet announced and he has a safe job as Congressman. Whether he views Walsh, the current Lt. Governor, as a tough opponent is not known. He probably would rather not have to mix it up with a decorated military figure.
The worst news for Daines is that if Walsh is the nominee, the soldier vote (anybody in the military, basically) will tip Democrat. This presents a huge mathematical issue for Republicans, because military voters usually skew right, and constitute a reliable piece of the base for the GOP. Just as farmers and ranchers crept away from the GOP to vote for the agrarian candidates Tester and Schweitzer, so will soldiers vote for Walsh. Many, like guardsmen and Iraq vets, will vote for him because he was their leader. Others will vote for him because it is very rare that a general runs for office. In fact other than Wesley Clark I can’t think of one that has gone into politics in recent years.
Walsh is a relative newcomer to politics, of course, and he’ll need to remediate quickly. For example, reporters spent the day tweeting their disappointment at the fact that he wouldn’t return their calls on the day he announced. He should speak to reporters. And until recently, he maintained his own personal Facebook page (always a bad idea for a politician for several reasons) until he accidentally “liked” a spam posting causing a pic of a woman showing off her bikini-clad boobs to appear in his feed, then had to shut it down. These are small and fairly meaningless things that the GOP has instantly glommed onto, to try to discredit him. But this is precisely GOP’s problem. Walsh has a very strong profile, and will be very tough to attack in a substantive way.
Meanwhile, John Bohlinger is still making noise about running but has stated that he is still in the exploratory phase. Strangely, Bohlinger has more name recognition among voters than Walsh because he’s been around so long. But despite his nominal status as a Republican, whether Democratic voters see him as a Democrat is an open question.
At any rate, raising money is the name of the game right now. Come the end of December, when fundraising reports are due, we’ll check back to see who’s winning in that department.
There’s a third guy, too, named Dirk Adams. He is a bit of an outsider, so much so that most political leaders and opinion-makers in Helena have never even met him or in some cases even heard of him. But I’m told he has personal wealth and is preparing to spend it. The problem, however, is that he made his money in the finance industry, specifically in the subprime mortgage lending business, Politico reported last month. So I can’t honestly see anyone with that history presenting much of a candidacy in a democratic primary.
UPDATE: New developments are prompting some speculation that Daines may switch back to running for house again.