Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bushman for Senate?

As we noted before, we like Mike Lange quite a bit, regardless of what people might say about him. He has brought a fresh approach to Montana politics from a different perspective than comes from the usual Republican sources (we can say that sort of thing, since we're about as usual as they come.)

But we have also pointed out that whoever decides to take him on in a primary is likely to win and go on to tackle Max Baucus in the fall of 2008.

While it just hit the Gazette this morning, thanks to LITW we learned yesterday about the latest AP story on Kirk Bushman's contemplated run for the U.S. Senate.

LITW of course puts the worst possible face on Bushman's proposed candidacy -- that, of course, is their job, so that's not really a criticism of that site. But we would offer a slightly different perspective on the points LITW makes.

In talking about the importance of reforming Social Security through personalization of accounts, Bushman is tracking right with the message of the GOP presidential candidate who will win Montana in the fall of 2008.

We know this, since all of the GOP candidates appear not to be afraid of speaking the truth about the need to do something about Social Security entitlements before a system on a collision course with demographic reality confronts our children and grandchildren with bankruptcy and extremely hard choices.

It is a message that resonates with younger voters (non-socialist younger voters, that is,) most of whom are skeptical in the extreme about what, if anything, they will see when they retire in return for decades of their payroll taxes that aging baby-boomers will snarf up in a few years. Democrats will always think election to election on Social Security, and that's not a bad immediate political strategy, given the aging population. But Republicans can, should, and will think differently.

And as for the SCHIP veto, Bushman will be advocating a carefully targeted program that helps children from low-income families, rather than one that would turn into a middle-class entitlement that undermines private health insurance -- just like the Congressman who will win Montana in the fall of 2008 -- Denny Rehberg.

All in all, if these were two items that Bushman chose to comment on, they aren't particularly poorly chosen ones if he wants to start out by unifying the Montana GOP base in support of him. And if he can get the GOP base behind him, the race won't be a landslide for Baucus.

Bushman would probably make a very solid candidate, and the word on the street that has been floating about him and his contemplated run here in Billings has been all very positive. He will unquestionably raise money. Not Max Baucus money, but perhaps approaching Jon Tester money -- and the latter proved that the candidate with the most money doesn't always win.

Unlike Bob Keenan, whose past experience holding elective office meant that he should have known he had to get in some time ago if he were planning to mount a strong campaign against Baucus, Bushman is a political newcomer and thus has good reason for not being ahead of the curve at this point.

Let's comment on the obvious: in conventional terms, Baucus is unassailable. A candidate who takes on an incumbent like him is like David going after Goliath, which means that it's not precisely hopeless, but that little stone from the slingshot has to hit him precisely in the center of the metaphorical forehead -- which takes luck, the grace of God, or both.

Also, Goliath can stumble. Baucus isn't likely to, since he is a life-long professional politician who has seemingly been running for office for longer than most Montanans have been alive, but it does happen, even to the best of them. And while neither Democratic left nor the Republican right hate Baucus, it is by the same token hard to find people who are just so excited about Sen. Baucus that they can scarcely contain themselves.

Baucus doesn't seem to have that kind of visceral loyalty, and is therefore only an Abramoff away from turning the race into a barn-burner. Come to think of it, he did take money from Abramoff and he has been in Washington too long -- we can just use the old Dem TV ads that were used against Burns in 2006 if we get strapped for cash.

What is important is having a solid candidate who works tirelessly, doesn't get discouraged, works the grassroots and gets the party faithful behind him, and who is mentally prepared for the inevitable million-dollar personal smear campaign that will be directed his way. Doesn't matter how clean he has lived and worked -- they will come up with something. He just has to expect it, and so do his Republican backers.

In short, Bushman needs to be prepared to be personally destroyed by the Baucus machine. Not a particularly palatable prospect for a candidate (which is of course why there haven't been high-profile Republicans standing in line to take on the good Senator,) but if he carries it off and continues to work tirelessly while holding his head high and not losing his cool, he will have served his party well and will have gained state-wide name recognition for another, future race, if that's what he wants.

Also, if Baucus were to run essentially unopposed, he would pour his entire war-chest into the state-wide Democratic machine to win legislative races and other state-wide races. He needs to be made to work for his Senate win. For anything else to happen in a state with as many Republicans as Montana has would be a disgrace to the state party.

And, Baucus could always stumble. It's not much to hold on to -- but a year is a long time in politics. It's why football teams who are playing a 30-point favorite still suit up and play hard, because on any given Sunday...

Good luck to Lange and Bushman. Let's have a nice, clean fight, where most of the rhetorical blows just happen to land on the other party.


TMM said...

Interesting analysis, and I appreciate your non-reactionary stance to the LITW piece. What passes for cogent analysis over there leaves a bit to be desired: when in doubt, yell out, "They hate kids! They hate old people! They'll stab your dog with a rusty nail!"

Montana Headlines said...

Thanks for the kind comments.

Anonymous said...

If you are going to take on Baucus, you need to start by steering away from false information. Baucus did NOT take money from Abramoff. He recieved a small amount of money from an Abramoff associate and returned it once the connection to Abramoff was discovered. In fact, most of Congress at the time (Including Denny Rehberg) took money from Abramoff or one of his associates and not all of them returned that money when the Abramoff connection was discovered.

Burns, on the other hand, received more money from Abramoff directly than any other Congress Critter. Burn's staff and Abramoff's staff were interchangeable. Abramoff himself said that they never failed to get anything they wanted from Burns...

Baucus has lots of issues you can use to attack him but Abramoff isn't one of them. If you truly want to try to topple Baucus, you are going to have to do it smart. Most people won't buy into blind flailing and attacks and it makes you look truly bad. Fact checking is a good thing.


Montana Headlines said...

Don't worry. While we might gently poke at Sen. Baucus once in a while, no-one around Montana Headlines would dare "take on Baucus" in any real sense of those words.

We know what happens to those who try, and we still have kids to raise, mortgages to pay off, and retirements to fund.

The idea of actually taking anti-Burns ads and literally buying TV time to play them wasn't exactly serious. Sorry if it sounded like a real proposal.

Let's just say that Baucus really did take money from clients of a convicted felon, whether or not anything illegal or unethical was involved -- whereas Mike Taylor really wasn't a gay hairdresser as far as anyone knows.

But that didn't stop Montana Dems from gay-baiting their way from what was already a sure-fire win into a landslide, apparently just so they could divert Baucus money into activities that would support other races.

Baucus is hardly the one in this race who has particular reason to worry. His supporters can relax.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what you are refering to by the "Mike Tyler" reference. I am assuming this is something that happened before I returned to Montana. One of these days you will have to fill me in on the details (facts, please....)

Also understand that calling me a Baucus supporter would be stretching things a bit. While Baucus was one of the first Policians I voted for once I was old enough to vote (the first time he ran for office... I guess that dates me.), I have some doubts and issues with Baucus as he is now. I think that at times, he has lost the pulse of Montana and I think he has been in Washington DC too long. I remember a star struck Congressman that would physically remove a lobbiest from his office. The Baucus we have now is not the same person.

On the other hand, I do like Baucus more than Lange. I honestly don't know enough about Bushman to comment.


Ed Kemmick said...

Montana Headlines: I'm still not sure the hairdresser ads had anything to do with gay-baiting. It was enough to show that Mike Taylor, who had been trying to look and sound like Teddy Roosevelt, had been a puka-shell-wearing dandy with a permanent not too many years earlier. I can't think of any campaign, under any political banner, that wouldn't have made use of that old footage.

Then there are the GOP e-mail alerts attacking Bill Kennedy, who's running against Rehberg. Today's e-mail was even more childish and obnoxious than the last one, which I hadn't thought possible. We're all used to dirty tricks, but I don't know if we can stand these juvenile antics. Does anybody in the Montana Republican Party like what these clowns are doing?

Montana Headlines said...

Moorcat: I didn't mean to sound like I thought you were a hard-core Baucus supporter. I perceive you as being one of the few people in the blogosphere who is representative of that large segment of the Montana voting population that will vote cross-ticket, depending on the candidate. My comment about Baucus supporters was intended to be more generally directed to the blogo-ether.

If you want to see what the fuss was about, do a YouTube search and plug in "max baucus for senate mike taylor gay" -- and watch the infamous ad. The words are talking about one thing, but the purpose to using the video footage itself was pretty obvious.

Ed: First of all, while I've never met Taylor and thus want to be circumspect in how strongly I state this, I would think that the GOP could and should have found a much better candidate than Taylor to run against Baucus in 2002.

If the only point to that ad was to show that he was a "puka-shell-wearing dandy with a permanent," rather than conveying a gay-hairdresser implication as well -- then the Dems would have used a more representative example of of Taylor's many leisure-suit-wearing infomercials, wouldn't they?

From what I understand, this was the only one or one of only a couple where the beauty-tip subject was a man rather than a woman. Give the Dems some credit for knowing how to subtly gay-bait while showing that Taylor was a dandy. You are right that it was more than gay-baiting (or whatever you want to call it,) but it certainly included it -- and at least according to a major Baucus supporter/donor who bragged to me about it at the time, "finishing him off" by making Taylor look gay was the whole point.

I would even go so far as to admit that the visual message that you describe would have been a legitimate one. After all, he was portraying himself as a rugged rancher when it was Baucus who was really the rugged man of the land. And he was pretending that he had spent the bulk of his life living in Montana rather than in a far-away big-city, when it was really Baucus who has been living in Montana non-stop all of these years.

It was fair game for the Dems to point out in the most effective way possible that this wasn't the case. They couldn't just say that Taylor had spent most of his life in the big city, for reasons that underlie my sarcasm in the previous paragraph.

You are probably right that any campaign would have used that footage. Certainly the writers of the Kennedy Chronicles would have.

Both attacks are distasteful for exactly the same reason: Rehberg is going to win, just like Baucus was going to win (and it was even surer in the latter case.) Both attacks were aimed at personal humiliation -- the sort of thing that if the blow lands firmly, makes a guy's kids not want to show up at school the next day.

And in fairness to Baucus, at the time they ran the ad, Republicans still were in charge of most other things in the state -- in the off-chance that Baucus had lost that race, it would have been devastating to the Dems, just as it would be devastating for the GOP to lose Rehberg's seat today. So some overkill is politically understandable, even if it is distasteful in human terms.

The kids at the GOP are just trying to imitate the big boys across town. I personally don't think it is particularly effective, but who am I to talk? -- those guys are the paid professionals and presumably know what they're doing, right?

Ziegler's letter to the Gazette on the other hand, made a legitimate point: if there is a precedent that Democrats demanded that Conrad Burns return that portion of his commissioner's salary that he spent campaigning, then why isn't that "rule" followed by Kennedy in his runs for higher office? This has nothing to do with being a "perpetual candidate."

The "Kennedy Chronicles" aren't funny, they don't seem to land any meaningful blows (I'm shocked, shocked, that a politician would use an office as a springboard to higher office,) and any good points that might be made seem to be lost in a sea of silly snark -- again, in my amateur opinion.

So no, I don't know anyone who likes those e-mails -- but then I've never discussed them with anyone. I personally don't like that sort of thing because I don't think it works when Republicans do it. After all, it reinforces the stereotype that Republicans are mean, whereas Dems can get by with that sort of thing because they are the soft and cuddly party that loves kids.

When they make me king of the Montana GOP, I promise to engage in more dignified (or at least wickedly funny) sarcasm in my attack e-mails.

Montana Headlines said...

P.S. Because of a concerned reader responding by e-mail, we hasten to point out that the "King of the Montana GOP" was an exercise in the ridiculous.

Of late, MH has gotten a bit carried away with hyperbole and dry humor that some might take seriously, and we'll try to tone it down in the future and be more sober.