I’ve seen commentary from Democrats on this blog and on Twitter in the days since the election, declaring the Montana election results to be some sort of abject and tragic failure on the part of Democratic candidates, the party, and so on.
That is simply not true. We did as well as could have been expected. All of the post mortem commentary leaves one thing out: Democrats in Montana essentially won every race that was winnable. The federal contests never revealed themselves, in pre-election polling dating back 12 months, to be winnable races. Even though she ran a good race and fought the good fight and generated some buzz, Amanda Curtis never had anything but a highly remote statistical chance at becoming senator, a miracle required. It was almost the same for John Lewis. In a big Democratic year and with a full year or two to campaign, things might have been different. But Amanda was always behind by at least 15 points and Lewis 10, and even if she had lit some type of rare fire and started to tear down Steve Daines, he would have unleashed another three or four million dollars against her, as would the Republican party. Daines and Zinke were solid Republican candidates in a Republican year in a Republican state. What Lewis and Curtis were each looking for was a monumental upset. It is not a failure that they did not achieve one. This was an impossible year for Democrats to send a person to Washington. It’s just that simple.
The same can be said about our local races–we won what was winnable and we are one of only five states in America where democrats gained legislative seats. That’s a pretty impressive thing in my view. And the most important winnable race of all, we won big–the Supreme Court.
So that’s the first point. The second point is that I would caution people to be careful about simply accepting all of the theories being pushed out there about why Democrats lost. Because the main and most simple theory is most certainly the correct one: Montana will not send a Democrat to Washington in a year in which we have a democratic (not to mention black) president at 28% in the polls, in a midterm year, who is fairly inept at articulating what he stands for or believes.
For those who believe that the Democrats should unabashedly come out against the Keystone pipeline, or unabashedly for a pro-immigration position, I have news for you: such positions are extremely unpopular in states like Montana, and very polarizing too. The greenlighting of the Keystone pipeline, for example, is supported by 85% of Montana voters. Coming out strongly against it, and shouting it from the mountaintop, provides no electoral benefit.
Nationally, I’m not sure that the analysis is much different. The election was a platform for voters to make an anti-Obama statement, and there’s not much a democrat can do when that’s what an election is about.