If the "leak" of a memo based on internal polling was intended somehow to embarrass the Montana GOP, it is unlikely to have that effect.
The supposed "bombshell" of the memo was that GOP legislative candidates were advised not to attack the governor. Far from being some unusual recommendation, it is something that should be common sense -- and from reading Republican legislative candidate literature, it is something that at least in the Billings area, legislative candidates have already been doing for months.
As Chairman Erik Iverson pointed out, this polling data only confirms what has already been a change in direction for the Montana Republican Party, where in the past everyone's fortunes depended on the outcome of major statewide races such as a Presidential race or Senate race. It was never probably a very good strategy in a state like Montana, where voters are noted for their independence and cross-ticket voting. And in the current state of voter flux nationally, it makes even less sense now.
And again, this is a turn that the Montana GOP had already taken some time ago. The silly days of thinking that there were major political gains to be made by repeatedly calling the governor a "mint farmer" or by criticizing him for letting Jag climb on tables and chairs in the state Capitol are long gone.
To be sure, many of the governor's policies deserve criticism -- and alternative visions need to be presented. Some might interpret this as attacking the governor, but of course such straight-forward critiques and contrasts are the legitimate stuff of campaigns.
It is, however, the job of the Roy Brown campaign to do that, and the pollster was stating the obvious by noting that legislative and local candidates aren't going to gain any ground by personal attacks on the governor. The governor has a singular talent for getting under the skin of Republicans -- as we have noted before in these pages, the governor is very Clintonesque in that respect. But we must resist the urge to fire verbally at will, no matter how tempting and even pleasing the prospect might be at any given moment.
Montana Headlines has made these same points before, and while we don't shy away from criticizing policies or actions of the governor, we try to do so on points of substance -- such as our continuing coverage of the governor's refusal to follow a rule that he himself signed into law, or our critiques of how the budget surplus was wasted.
If the memo wasn't intentionally leaked by the GOP (which we suspect it was,) it should have been, because it only serves to highlight for Montana voters the new direction of the Montana GOP, with its emphasis on having local and legislative candidates run their own campaigns on their own merits -- with the benefits percolating up to benefit statewide candidates. It is good long-term strategy, and will pay dividends. Kudos to Erik Iverson.