Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Un-be-lie-va-ble -- Driscoll and Kelleher

Tuesday's primaries show what strange things can happen when there is a combination of a power vacuum, some name recognition, and a multi-candidate primary.

On the Democratic side, the appointed sacrificial lamb meant to take on Denny Rehberg in the U.S. Congress race has been Jim Hunt. John Driscoll has pulled off a stunning upset over Hunt, in spite of the fact that Driscoll neither raised money nor campaigned.

On the Republican side, the race in the 6-way primary for U.S. Senate seems to have incredibly gone to Bob Kelleher, in spite of the fact that he didn't campaign and (to put it mildly,) has no support with the Republican Party grassroots due to his past Democratic and Green Party candidacies. Most active Republicans had expected the race to come down to a contest between Rep. Mike Lange and Kirk Bushman, both of Billings, and both of whom had worked the usual Republican venues across the state very hard.

What do the races have in common?

First, in both races, no-one prominent stepped forward to take on an entrenched incumbent. For Republicans, where was, say, a Marc Racicot to take on Max Baucus? For Democrats, no-one of the prominence of even a John Morrison was willing to take on Rehberg. Anyone who has not held state-wide office before is fighting an uphill battle when running for a major federal office, even if tacitly or openly endorsed by the party.

Second, in both races, having multiple candidates lowered the bar of what was needed to win to a plurality of votes -- in the case of the Republican primary, a combination of a low Republican turnout and having 6 names on the ballot allowed Kelleher to win with only about 27,000 votes, or 35% of the total.

Third, in both races, the supposed "front-runners" didn't have enough money to make up for their lack of name recognition. Voters won't generally vote for someone whose name they don't recognize.

Which brings us to the final point -- both of the men who won had natural name recognition. Kelleher has become a sort of legend as a perennial candidate -- the sort who gets enough attention to have his name register in the subconscious of the casual voter, but who doesn't get enough attention to attract antipathy. Driscoll is a former PSC commissioner who would, even with that kind of a regional position, register in the subconscious of people who read the newspaper from time to time.

If anyone believes that there aren't a lot of casual voters who just randomly vote for a name, just note the case of Joshua Garnett: a local Billings truck driver whose only news coverage was that he was a convicted felon wanted for parole violations in another state, and who relatively quickly dropped out. Garnett received 2700 votes, or 4% of the total.

So now, Republicans are stuck with a U.S. Senate candidate who might have a hard time promising to "protect and defend the Constitution," since he believes we should have a parliamentary-style government, one with zero ability to raise even token amounts of money from Republicans. And the Democrats find themselves with a candidate who has pledged not to campaign or raise money -- not exactly a formula for setting things up for a real challenge to Rehberg in 2 years.

We assume that Mr. Kelleher would be preferable to Sen. Baucus -- we'll have to take a closer look at the former. But don't look for him to have any financial or other support of any significance from the larger Republican party.

One thing that wasn't a surprise was the 20% showing for Ron Paul. It is Paul's strongest showing of the season, and reflects an absent McCain campaign that didn't excite many Montana Republicans to begin with. But the solid McCain win should indicate that the vast majority of our national delegates should go to McCain.


Update: Jay over at LITW questions the MH assumption that Kelleher would be preferable to Baucus. He makes a good point -- it was a hasty comment based on a lack of information. It would have been better to remain silent.

The main point was that Kelleher won't be getting Republican support -- the other comment reflected a desire not to be hasty in writing off Kelleher before learning something about him.

We will become familiarized with Kelleher soon enough. From the bizarre buzz that has come our way so far, no-one should hold their breath waiting for MH to endorse Kelleher. In any way.


Rebecca said...

Do you think Bob also got the sympathy vote? As in, "This guy's been running since the vigilante era, let's finally give him a chance"?

It seems to me, in this important election year, Republican primary voters would have been better educated about their candidates. I always thought primary voters were more hard core about their party politics.

John Locke said...


Operation Chaos!!

Serves you right!

Anonymous said...

I tend to vote conservative but I'm going to swallow my pride and vote for Max. At least I know Max attempts to be conservative every six years. Kelleher is just to much of a "nut case" for me.

KellMac said...

Is it possible that members of opposing parties went stuffed the ballot boxes for the candidates they would prefer to run against? This could more easily explain Kelleher over Driscoll, but it might explain the odd upsets in both races.

Anonymous said...

When you are done explaining voters, take a shot at weather patterns. They have more thought behind them.

goof houlihan said...

I can't believe the democrats crossed over. I think republicans are responsible for Kelleher. I think it was a "who cares?" vote.

Baucus has done a good job, yes rebecca, yes, markt, yes, republicans, baucus has done a good job, and I'd be supporting him regardless. So Kelleher was a fun vote in a race we don't need to be putting money into.

Montana Headlines said...

Mark, I wish you were wrong, but the evidence seems to pretty strongly support the assertion. In both parties.

Montana Headlines said...

John Locke -- you obviously don't read MH. We've opposed Operation Chaos from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

The John Locke who posted here is like the John Locke character in the season finale of "Lost."

Brain dead, and lying in a casket. Looking rather pale.

Rebecca said...

Baucus has done a good job, yes rebecca, yes, markt, yes, republicans, baucus has done a good job

Goof, why is it all I can hear here is, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus"?

Anonymous said...

Bob Kelleher is a social conservative who just wants more government accountability. He wants government to be accountable to the people instead of lobbyists. Accountable government goes along with the Republican ideals of small and limited government. He believes in more closley unifying the powers of government similar to a parliament.

KIrk Dooley said...

Methinks Kelleher and Driscoll won because "None of the Above" wasn't on the ballot. ;-)