As Usual, The DCCC And The Beltway Dems Are Failing The Grassroots In Montana

Last night, we tried explaining why we think Jon Ossoff is a good choice for progressives... in if he isn't a clone of Elizabeth Warren or Pramila Jayapal. After all, that's not how politics works. Ossoff is progressive enough and the effect on Trump's legislative agenda if he beats Karen Handel in GA-06 on June 20 is something every progressive should be focused on. (And, no, if Ossoff were a Blue Dog or New Dem, I would not have written that and Blue America would not have endorsed him. But he's not and we did.) There seems to be a lot of anger from what appears to be Hillary dead-enders but could possibly be Russian hackers pretending to be Hillary dead-enders about Bernie Sanders these days. If my twitter feed is any indication, the most popular political leader in America is just loathed by a bunch of unbelievably dumb and ill-informed Hillary-bots. I think they must be mostly from Macedonia and Albania.

As for Bernie not campaigning for Ossoff, that's his decision. I would like to point out that, unlike the DCCC, DNC and Kansas Democratic Party, Bernie and Our Revolution tried helping James Thompson in KS-04 (an area Bernie is more popular in than GA-06 anyway). And now Bernie is also helping-- so far without the DNC or DCCC-- in Montana. Bernie's big in Montana. Although the corrupt and hated Democratic establishment had rigged the rules so that Hillary would get the bulk of the delegates, Bernie beat her in the primary-- 51.1% to 44.6%. In many places it was close but in some counties the disparity was eye-popping, In Missoula Bernie took 60.4% of the vote to Hillary's 36.9%. In Wibaux County Hillary only got 26.7% of the primary vote. This is a state Bernie where Bernie has a lot to offer. Obviously no one is calling on Hillary to campaign for anyone anywhere. Her muddled inauthentic message would be poison in any of these seats. None of these candidates want visits from Schumer or Pelosi either. I bet they'd welcome Ted Lieu with open arms.

In Montana, Trump beat Hillary 279,240 (55.6%) to 177,709 (35.4%). Trump won all but 6 counties in the general. Those Bernie voters up in Missoula County, though, they dutifully turned out for Hillary and gave her one of her only bright spots in the state, winning the county 53.4% to 37.7%. Montana, of course, is anything but a lost cause, even if the feeble minds at the DCCC see it that way. On the same day Trump won, Montanans reelected their Democratic governor-- and he was running against the same multimillionaire crackpot, Greg Gianforte, who's running for the open congressional seat. One of Montana's senators, Jon Tester, is a Democrat and when he first ran, he ran as a populist and took on the establishment hack Schumer tried shoving down Montana Democrats' throats. Tester beat Schumer's hack and then beat the Republican incumbent.

So now the Democrats have nominated another non-establishment candidate, Rob Quist, and, as they habitually do, the DNC and DCCC are dragging their fat asses about supporting him. The election is next month and it may be too late already. When James Thompson took the nomination away from the establishment piece of crap the DCCC wanted in the KS-04 race, the DCCC immediately pulled out of the state. That's their pattern. They despise the Democratic grassroots as much as the Democratic grassroots despise them. Now they look ready to let Quist fail rather than allow the choice of grassroots Democrats to for their hand into backing a progressive. Reading Jonathan Martin's Beltway-centric analysis of the Montana race in the NY Times, you don't get that perspective although you walk away from his piece wondering why the Democratic establishment isn't helping Quist. Journalists aren't allowed to write about DCCC, DNC and DSCC motivations; strictly verboten.

Martin quotes Quist at the top of his report about the Betway Dems: "They’ve been on the sidelines a little too long, and it’s time for them to get in the game... they're coming." Are they? Bernie is? How about some cash though? Grassroots Dems are furious at the DNC and DCCC. DNC Chair Tom Perez is being boo-ed by large crowds on his tour of red and purple states with Bernie-- but not by red and purple voters, by Democrats. "A groundswell of new activism on the left," wrote Martin, "is demanding attention... [G]grass-roots liberals are not about to let party leaders lapse back into traditional red state, blue state assumptions. Instead, the Democrats’ enthusiastic base is demanding to compete on terrain that once seemed forbidding, a formula for disputes now and in 2018 about where to put the party’s money and field operations."

“The party clearly has no clue how to build and nurture a movement,” said Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the liberal website Daily Kos, which has taken the lead in raising money for Democratic candidates first in Georgia, then Kansas and now Montana. “‘We’re going to lose, so stay out’ is not a winning message, ever, and it certainly doesn’t work in these times, when we have a national resistance energized and looking for ways to engage.”

...Hillary Clinton and the Democrats waged a campaign that was overly cautious and insufficiently populist, they say, resulting in the election of perhaps the most detested candidate in the left’s modern history. Now the left wants to go for broke.

The internecine dispute over where to play could last well beyond this season of special elections and into the 2018 midterm elections. At issue is whether the campaign arm of the House Democrats and the Democratic National Committee should dedicate money and staff to campaigns that may appear to be a reach but that could still galvanize small-dollar donors and activists hungry to compete.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont says they should, expressing regret that the party did not help its nominee in Kansas and vowing to campaign for Mr. Quist. Senior union officials have also urged party leaders to lean in to this series of special elections, which will continue in South Carolina in June and potentially in Pennsylvania should Representative Tom Marino become drug czar, according to Democratic sources briefed on the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Democratic officials make no apology for their decision to stay away from the Kansas race, where their nominee lost by less than seven percentage points in a Wichita-based district that Mr. Trump carried by 27 points in November. They say their money has been better spent helping Mr. Ossoff.

“I don’t know that it makes a lot of sense to spend resources where you don’t have a shot at winning,” Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat, said. “People tend to get disappointed.”

Mr. Clyburn noted that few leading Kansas Democrats said they “thought they were headed to a victory” rather than just a “closer than expected” finish.

But that is not the case in Montana, where a preference for Republican presidential candidates belies the state’s enduring Democratic tradition. Its governor, Steve Bullock, is a Democrat. One of its senators, Jon Tester, is a Democrat. And now its one House seat is vacant.

“National folks should be coming in here,” Governor Bullock said. “It is a winnable race.”

Mr. Bullock should know. His re-election last year, by four percentage points against the Republican Greg Gianforte, was the fourth consecutive gubernatorial race that Democrats have won in Big Sky country. The state has also not sent two Republican senators to Washington at the same time since the Constitution was amended to require the popular election of senators.

Goal ThermometerYet to the frustration of Democrats here, Mr. Quist has received no defense from national third-party groups-- and he’s running against Mr. Gianforte, who was just beaten statewide. Mr. Gianforte and three Washington-based conservative organizations have spent more than $1.4 million on television and radio since February, much of it attacking Mr. Quist.

Democratic officials, contributors and activists in Montana, which Mr. Sanders carried in the presidential primary, are clearly agitated over their Washington-based party. They say the top-down leadership never misses an opportunity to play it safe.

Echoing the demands that progressives made just over a decade ago when another Republican president ignited the liberal rank-and-file, Montana Democrats express irritation that they must persuade their party to contest red-tinged seats. And in some cases, they are even borrowing the animating language from the backlash to President George W. Bush’s second term.

“This is the time for the 50-state strategy. What are they waiting for?” said Julia Shaida, a 60-year-old Bozeman yoga teacher who recently moved here from New York. “The energy is here. I read that they didn’t support the Kansas candidate. That’s very upsetting to me.”

Standing outside Mr. Quist’s new Bozeman headquarters on Saturday, a few hours after a spring snow shower and before she was to begin canvassing, Ms. Shaida made a plea: “Don’t be afraid of a populist message.”

The irony of that message may have been lost on a crowd heavier on Patagonia and North Face outerwear than well-worn Carhartt trousers, packed into an old labor hall still replete with Teamsters logos.

But the combination of old and new-- Montana’s enduring union tradition alongside its new, liberal transplants-- is keeping the state competitive for Democrats.

Mr. Quist, 69, is an unmistakable product of the older Montana, quick to note the depth of his roots (third-generation Montanan) and to explain how his ancestors made their way to Cut Bank, not far from the Canadian border. In his cowboy hat, boots and black jeans, the mustachioed Mr. Quist could be mistaken for the Marlboro Man, if that icon of Western grit had spent much of the last few decades playing gigs in fraternity house basements as frontman for the Mission Mountain Wood Band.

His Republican opponent reflects the changing nature of the state, although he is more conservative than many of the new arrivals. A New Jersey native, Mr. Gianforte, 56, became a billionaire when he sold the software company he founded, RightNow Technologies, to Oracle.

Some Democrats here complain that no money has been spent focusing attention on the same issues that sank Mr. Gianforte’s run for governor last year, like his lawsuit to stop access to a river near his Bozeman home. Access to public lands is a perennial hot-button issue in vast Western states, particularly in pristine Montana.

“They need to come in and rip the scab off the message that hurt Gianforte last year,” said Evan Barrett, a nearly 50-year veteran of Montana Democratic politics, alluding to the ad assault Democrats unleashed over Mr. Gianforte’s lawsuit. “Those wounds are still very fresh.”

In his address at the headquarters opening, Mr. Quist invoked “Texas oil tycoons” funding national conservative groups who, he charged, would like to have their way with the state.

And little is being done by Democrats to prop up the Libertarian nominee on the ballot, who could siphon votes from the Republican. Usually, Democrats are not shy about such political mischief-making.

Mr. Gianforte is leading the race, according to private surveys that both parties have conducted, although a Democratic group, House Majority PAC, was to gauge the race with a new poll this week. While Mr. Trump remains more popular here than in most states, there is ample anti-Trump energy on the left: Organizers estimated that as many as 10,000 people turned out in 20-degree weather for the January Women’s March in Helena, a gathering Mr. Bullock said was the largest crowd ever to rally in front of the state capitol.

Becky Weed, a sheep rancher from Belgrade, Mont., said after an agriculture-focused event for Mr. Quist that her party needed to open its eyes to what such a turnout meant.

“The first thing they could start doing is listening to campaigns like this,” said Ms. Weed. (“Bad name for a farmer,” she joked.) “We got into trouble because they weren’t really listening to people at a grass-roots level. They were trying to direct things from on high, and it’s reparable-- but we got to do it fast.”

Nancy Keenan, the Montana Democratic chairwoman, said the seeds for an upset had been sown.

“Get in the game, get in the game,” she said in an interview at the state party office in Helena, “because you’re not going to take credit for it after we’ve won it.”

UPDATE: DCCC Felt The Pain

Enough pressure was applied to... ah... to... to what? That's the question. The DCCC has tossed in a small amount of money into the Montana race, nothing like the millions it takes to win a congressional race but a little something. The DCCC was bragging by late yesterday that they've put "six figures" into Montana. That could be $100,000 or $100,001. I bet it's not $900,000. First some good news: they're leaving it to the state party to decide how to use the money. That's great because the DCCC always uses their investments in races badly and state parties generally know how to do it better and more cost effectively. So that's good. But $100,000 doesn't go very far. Last cycle, the DCCC and Pelosi's House Majority PAC spent $3,832,352 on behalf of Jersey Blue Dog Josh Gottheimer. And they spent another $6,562,478 on behalf of less-than-worthless conservative Jacky Rosen in Nevada. Now that kind of spending helps win races. We'll soon see if they're serious about helping in Montana or just trying to placate angry Democrats around the country. What's your guess? I bet you know mine.

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