Sunday morning’s talking heads label Montana a “red” state to be taken for granted by Republican presidential candidates. They were spot on: Mitt Romney received 267,924 Montana votes vs. Barack Obama’s 201,813, a 67,000 vote spread.
Montana voters then morphed into independent Montanans and lockstep Republicans ended up confused and therefore angry. Obama got fewer votes than any partisan candidate for Montana’s top offices. Even the clerk of Supreme Court, Ed Smith, a Democrat, won re-election with 42,000 more votes than Obama.
Top vote getter was Romney with 268,000, then Congressman-elect Steve Daines (R) with 255,000 votes and Attorney General-elect Tim Fox (R) with 253,000 votes. State Auditor Monica Lindeen (D) won re-election with 248,000 votes and Linda McCullough (D) remains our secretary of state because 245,000 Montana voters said so.
Sen. Jon Tester, challenger Denny Rehberg and gubernatorial candidates Steven Bullock and Rick Hill were ignored by tens of thousands of voters. Tester earned only 236,000 votes in a multimillion dollar bilge-throwing contest with Denny Rehberg (R), and Kim Gillan (D) got a measly 205,000 against Steve Daines, whose flagship ad had him telling spooky political stories around a family campfire.
At the Yellowstone Valley Pachyderm Club, (every Friday noon at the Elks Lodge on Lewis Ave; the public is invited) gathered pontificators were outraged at the outcome of the presidential, U.S. Senate and Montana governor’s races. Solutions ranged from discouraging primaries so capital can be conserved for final victory to the widely held, “Those damn Libertarians gave it to the Dems. How could they not be smart enough to vote for the lesser of two evils? Didn’t they know that Republicans stand for family values, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, and adherence to the Constitution?”
At the Republican $50 per plate legislative kickoff dinner held in Helena, Will Deschamps, chairman of the Republican Party, said that “stagnant” people had voted for Libertarians and defeated themselves in their quest for political purity.
Asked why they identify as Republican or Democrat, many respond, “Because I was raised that way” then offer a few platitudes. Ask a Libertarian and you better have a comfortable chair. The numbers show Libertarians did not “throw away” their votes but voted Libertarian as a default position when they could not abide the party picks.
The Obama-Romney race attracted only 14,000 Libertarian votes. Daines/Gillan matched up 19,000 Libertarian votes; Hill/Bullock 18,000 and McCulloch/Johnson 16,000. But in Tester/Rehberg, 32,000 Libertarians rejected both. So where did those other 18,000 Libertarian votes go? Never mind the 185,000 Libertarian votes for clerk of Supreme Court.
If Rehberg had gotten the Libertarian and Republican votes Linda McCulloch received, he would have won by 10,000 votes. Rehberg hitched his wagon to the “I’m not Obama” star located in the “NoBamacare Galaxy.” Obama lost big in Montana. The initiative to not implement Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act won big.
The same people who caused those vote counts rejected Rehberg’s poll-driven message though it was identical. My polling conducted over several Bud Lights clearly indicates Rehberg was held accountable for his compulsive spending when Republicans were in power. Rehberg supported for the Real ID under the Patriot Act and “stimulus spending” under the Bush administration, yet opposed the same under Obama.
He was weighed, he was measured, and he was labeled a hypocrite. So Libertarians turned to their own party. Oh, and McCulloch advertised what she did right rather than attack third parties.
Rick Hill also tied his opponent to the plainly unpopular Obamacare. Without offering an alternative, his message was an incomplete sentence. And he was going to create jobs … “as if government grows jobs,” Bubba sneered.
Hill lost by half as much as Rehberg lost with half as much Libertarian “defection.” My Bud Light-fueled polling indicates the issues were closer to home.
Bullock lied that he had written the “Stream Access” decision. He wrote the decision on how to attach a gate to a bridge. But he clearly said that he supports Montana’s hunters and anglers.
Rick Hill’s mass emailed “Sportsman’s Issues” threatened he would circumvent the recent initiative which restricted outfitter sponsored licenses, to reduce hunting leases, which made it more difficult for Montana residents to take their kids hunting. With more than 200,000 Montanans carrying deer, elk, antelope and bird licenses while looking for a place to hunt, it is amazing Rick lost by only 9,000 votes. Rick! Proctologists from Chicago hoping to book a hunt in Montana do not vote here; Bubba does.
It had nothing to do with “stagnant” Libertarians. It had to do with “What the heck were you guys thinking?”
Brad Molnar, a Republican, serves on the Public Service Commission.