That was Hillary Clinton’s lead in October in Montana, at least according to an MSUB poll of Montana democratic primary voters. By now the race must be tightened considerably. Hopefully an organization will poll soon to see what the race looks like.
Which leads me to the topic of the guest speaker for our upcoming Mansfield-Metcalf dinner.
I received word recently that the guest speaker for Mansfield Metcalf dinner, the annual Democratic banquet, is going to be Tammy Baldwin, a US Senator from Wisconsin and the first openly gay person to serve in the Senate.
I love Baldwin. And you can see why Wisconsinites love her. (Think what it would mean in Montana if we had sent a leader like Christine Kaufmann to the U.S. senate instead of Steve Daines in 2012.) She’s a star, a progressive, and it’s a nice provocative choice to highlight the contrasts in the undercurrent of the 2016 race in Montana. That’s true for both the Governor’s race, in which a hard-right conservative is running partially on an anti LGBT platform (and calling it “religion”), and for the Congressional race in which Denise Juneau will be running as the first openly gay statewide candidate.
Gianforte has had to duck and run on the issue of discrimination. It shows how far we’ve come that he is fearful of the label that he is hateful. That would never happened even ten years ago, when no Montana statewide Democratic office holders (nor the President, for that matter), liked to admit they supported marriage equality, or at least didn’t relish doing so. In those days, a GOP candidate would have worn her or his anti-gay bigotry on her or his sleeve, and would have tried to get votes from it.
But back to the Mansfield-Metcalf dinner: In 2008, the invited guests were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, joint guest speakers, and they both attended. It was a great occasion. The dinner was in April, even though the primary would not be held for another two months. I’m wondering if perhaps the Democratic party this year should consider the possibility that such a competition could still be in the offing. Whether the invitation could be delayed, so that we can extend one to the two candidates if and when it appears that Montana’s late primary in June might still matter, just as it mattered in 2008?
Right now, I have trouble believing that this race will be sown up any time soon. Sanders has honed his message to a sharp knife, and he is showing himself to be a very skilled politician. Clinton is no slouch, but she faces a constant barrage of right-wing attacks, and seems to be struggling to provide as clear a purpose to her candidacy. That will change perhaps, but from the smell and look of the race, I see a long battle. That’s a good thing, just as it was in 2008. And if the race is still hot in the early spring, Mansfield guests will demand, and deserve to hear from the candidates directly.