After a relatively close vote in a special congressional election in Kansas, Democrats seemed to have the wind at their backs.
Another special election for a suburban Atlanta Congressional seat looked promising until their candidate failed to score a majority in an open primary.
With their great hope now facing a runoff against a strong Republican, the blazing media narrative about that race being a bellwether has been reduced to a flicker.
And then there was the vacant at-large US House seat in Montana.
Though Donald Trump carried the Treasure State by a large margin in November, Montana has elected Democrats to the US Senate and governor.
Yes, Montana trended Republican but not to the degree of a Wyoming or an Idaho.
A folksy, cowboy hat wearing singer named Rob Quist secured the Democratic nomination While Quist was of the Bernie Sanders ideological camp, his style was not that of the career Capitol Hill mold that had been rejected by the American electorate last November, a fact lost on Democratic apparatchiks.
Or put another way, Quist wasn’t a bland Democratic proxy but someone with personal appeal beyond party ID. Quist looked every bit the part of a Montana outsider.
His opponent was wealthy Republican tech entrepreneur Greg Gianforte, who was just coming off a four-point loss for governor on the same day Trump won Montana bigly/big league.
Painted as a carpetbag plutocrat trying to buy elective office, the Democrats had a favorable candidate narrative edge in addition to not having the burden of offering an alternative to the not so popular policy agenda being clumsily advanced in Washington and distorted by the press.
When you’re simply against everything and aren’t offering any real ideas or detailed policy positions beyond “I’m for everyone getting health care”, you don’t expose any weak points that can be exploited.
This was the shrewd observation that a non-candidate Trump made when the House passed a symbolic Ryan Budget back in 2012.
However national Democratic hesitation and political gravity began to have effect as Gianforte was heading into a likely win.
And then he assaulted a reporter from the UK’s Guardian newspaper on the eve of the election.
Reporter Ben Jacobs maintains that he was “body slammed” for asking a question about health care, an issue Gianforte had straddled publicly though he had reportedly embraced the passed GOP plan on a private phone call to supporters.
A frustrated Gianforte verbally snapped that Jacobs should talk to his press guy and not him. When the reporter persisted Gianforte physically snapped, pushing Jacobs to the ground and screaming he was sick of it all.
This should’ve been the nail in Gianforte’s coffin as newspapers retracted their endorsements and the story made national news.
Early Voting: The race was essentially over before election day as tens of thousands of ballots had already been cast far in advance of Thursday.
Montana has a very long early voting period and try as some voters might, you can’t take your votes back.
Though it cost them this US House election, don’t expect Democrats to carp too much as early voting is one of their favorite political tools in states with large urban areas.
Thanks to early voting, Democrats have weeks/months to haul reliable if not guaranteed votes to the polls giving them a pre-election day edge Republicans struggle to overcome on the back end.
Early voting giveth far more than it taketh for Democrats.
A Party That LEFT Behind America: The election of Barack Obama continues to drag down the party outside population centers. Bill Clinton learned the hard way that social issues, particularly gun control, are toxic to the party.
The professional political activist and academic Obama saw the second term of his presidency as an opportunity to fundamentally change America by advancing leftist social issues via executive orders, judiciary appointments, and the bully pulpit.
This has produced mixed results for his party as it has become part of their brand and thus a liability in some areas.
America Hates the Media: In a different era attacking a reporter would’ve been politically fatal. But with the rise of a hyper partisan media complex and alternative means of getting information outside of the Established Media outlets, the public has grown frustrated with them.
Particularly the American people object to the media’s fawning manner bordering on adulation towards Obama, the free pass they gave the Clinton’s, and the recently documented absurdly high bias against Trump. The coverage is rigged and they know it making the press a less sympathetic entity. Apparently even in matters of criminal assault.
The media has truthiness and journalistic integrity problems that they can’t keep ignoring.
A Very Bad Republican Candidate: This race shouldn’t have been close yet the GOP embraced someone who isn’t meant for politics.
Being loaded doesn’t mean you’re a good candidate, especially if you plan on having others cover a good bit of your tab.
Furthermore Gianforte had just come off a statewide loss running far behind the ticket.
Yes the press is in the tank. Yes it’s not fair. But it is what it is and if you can’t handle this reality and control your impulse to physically lash out then politics is not for you.
When it comes to candidate recruitment the Republican Party needs to look beyond the bank account and for other qualities, such as an ability to hold the seat and not become a national albatross.
I’m not optimistic any party will learn from Montana.