Missoulapolis and Western Word have already commented on the excellent article in the Missoula Independent on U.S. Congressman Denny Rehberg.
The article contains plenty of negative comments from Democrats about Rehberg, but they pale by comparison to the positive portrayal of Rehberg that can't help but come through. And those negative comments generally have a ring of desperation, such as this one from California trial lawyer (and now cowboy-hat-wearing Montana Dem chairman) Dennis McDonald:
"He’s been nothing but a lap dog for president Bush since day one."
The trouble is that the left has been trying the "lapdog for Bush" mantra for quite some time and it isn't sticking -- in no small part because it isn't true. As Montana Headlines has pointed out in previous posts, an at-large Congressman from a small state like Montana is wise to vote with his party caucus a good amount of the time -- otherwise Rehberg's legislation wouldn't have the support of the GOP caucus that it needs in order to pass.
But Rehberg doesn't have a particularly high ranking of party-line voting for someone who is a Republican from a conservative-leaning state. According to the Washington Post's system, he has a lifetime rating of 92.3%. This might seem high, until one realizes that this puts him as 266th out of 442 members on the Washington Post's list of party-line voters. How often does the average Democratic Congressman vote with the Democratic Party? Answer: 92.3% of the time -- does this perhaps mean that Dennis McDonald believes that his party is made up of lapdogs?
Anyone who has been watching Rehberg grow into the role of Montana's titular Republican Party leader can't help but be impressed with how he is handling the role. The Independent piece does a good job of conveying how sure on his feet Rehberg is, and how at ease he is in almost any setting in Montana. It also portrays accurately just how hard-working Rehberg is, with a tireless schedule of traveling the state, listening to constituents and keeping his finger on the pulse of places as diverse as Butte and Broadus.
Is Rehberg wealthy? Sure, he is. Given that the Democratic Party is the party of the über-wealthy, it is hard to imagine why the Dems would want to try to make an issue out of that, but it seems that they do. Of course, their guy Jim Hunt (as we pointed out before) is so poor that he was able to dash off a 5 figure check just to make sure Justice Jim Nelson kept his job looking out for trial lawyers' interests on the Montana Supreme Court in his last election.
But the best quotation of the article on this score comes from Bob Brown:
Jim Hunt will have a tough time making the case that Rehberg has lost touch, adds Bob Brown.
“Rehberg is far more in touch with Montana and Montana values than Jim,” Brown says. “Jim’s certainly a competent guy, but Denny has the enormous advantage of having traveled this whole state and having been a student of the political process both in Washington, D.C., and in Montana.
A fellow who has spent most of his life as an attorney in Helena is more in touch than Dennis Rehberg?”
The writer, Rob Harper, adds this comment of his own after having watched Rehberg in action:
The better question might be: Is anyone better at staying in touch than Dennis Rehberg?
Answer: Right now? No.
When it comes to staying in touch with every corner of Montana, there is no-one else in Rehberg's league. Like the professional that he is, he will concentrate on his job, and as a politician he will concentrate on one election at a time. But in this year of the Sen. Baucus cash juggernaut, it is hard not to look a bit into the distance at 2012, realizing that Rehberg will likely face off against Sen. Tester with 6 straight winning statewide elections under his belt and having spent more than 2 decades building his statewide support and organization.