Monday, October 15, 2012

Coal state Democrats -- does Montana follow the pattern?

A lot of coal state Democrats are running from President Obama and his stances, which can only be reasonably described as hostile to the coal industry.

Some (but by no means all) high-profile Montana Democrats have not tended to follow that example. Gubernatorial candidate Steve Bullock has broken with his fellow Democrats on the land board on a number of occasions, voting against coal development. Senator Tester has likewise been pretty quiet about President Obama's EPA, and indeed has doubled down in defending EPA policies that other coal-state Democrats have condemned as unreasonable. As we noted before in our "between a frack and a hard place" piece, one plausible explanation for Montana Democrats being timid about going all out for coal is matter of just who is writing the checks to their campaigns.

As a Charles Johnson article noted today, Steve Bullock's lead in fundraising this cycle is completely a function of his high percentage of out-of-state donors. As always, Johnson's article is good, straight reporting. It is interesting that the Helena Independent Record's headline emphasizes Bullock's money lead, whereas the Billings Gazette headline emphasizes the fact that his lead results from out-of-state money. Given that the Gazette caused near-coronary events in Republican households across their readership area by endorsing Republican Rick Hill in Sunday's paper (is Hill poised for a more comfortable victory than we have been led to believe?), perhaps this headline is meant to give a little justification for that endorsement.

Getting back to money, Bullock's lead in fundraising demonstrates just how a dependence on out-of-state money puts Democrats in red states like Montana in a bind. Public sentiment is strongly in favor of natural resource development here in Montana -- and not just with Republicans.

And yet, when red state Democrats toe the environmentalist line insufficiently, they run the risk of losing all of that out-of-state money from liberal activists around the country who want some return on their investment.

Red state Republicans and blue state Democrats have no such conflict: any out-of-state conservative donor, for instance, will tend to have similar concerns as the average (right-of-center) Montanan on things like energy development.


Ed Kemmick said...

Maybe Conrad Burns wasn't in a bind in accepting out-of-state money, but Montana voters still had to ask what those out-of-staters expected for their money. Early in the 2006 race, in May of that year, the Gazette State Bureau reported that Burns had raised $1 million from Montana donors and $5 million from out-of-state donors.

And I thought your passing comment on the Gazette's endorsement of Hill was rather weak, inasmuch as it seriously undermined your musings of last week on this subject:

"It had to be painful for the editors to endorse a rising GOP star like Daines, but then, there is plenty of time to take him down in the future -- for now, he gets to be the Gazette’s token Republican for 2012. And it seems clear that he will be the lone Republican endorsed in the 8 major races in which Gazette readers will be voting."

Seems clear? Why? What now? And the idea that the edit board sits around analyzing poll data and then deciding to endorse Hill because he's definitely going to win is a bit ridiculous. OK, I should wait until tomorrow's political entry, right?

Brad Anderson said...

As you say, Burns, like most Republicans in Montana, wasn't in a bind (and I pointed out that blue-state Democrats aren't in a bind regarding out-of-state money, either.)

I also think that high amounts of out-of-state money in Senate races is to be expected in Montana -- from both parties, since they are federal elections. The idea that a U.S. Senator's vote on legislation could be purchased for a total of $100K and change in a race on which tens of millions were spent is also still preposterous to me. But that is water under the Burnsian bridge.

You guessed it -- tomorrow's post, which I wrote a couple of days ago, deals with the Hill endorsement. I was clearly wrong on that part of my prediction. (We pundits have to be wrong sometimes, right?)

If the Hill/Bullock race turns out to be a squeaker, I will have been doubly wrong. If Hill wins in a walk, I may just keep my tinfoil hat handy, just in case I need it again in the future!