Two of Montana’s highest profile politicos are busily playing games as they contemplate their next moves.
In what has become a not-so-secret deliberation (the sleazey insert in the Christmas card being a dead giveaway – DUH!) of possible future plans, Denny Rehberg is pulling all sorts of strings and dirty stunts behind the scenes to keep his options open for either a run for the Senate (Denny’s favorite – less likely to be successful) or governor (less desirable in Denny’s mind, but better odds of winning) in 2012. Knowing full-well that a successful run for either of those offices requires a longer-than-ever funding marathon, Denny is actively thwarting the campaigns of the leading candidates for both offices while he dithers around deciding which direction suits his fancy. Informal polls around the state show very little support for Denny for either office, and most insiders are clearly less than enthused with the prospect of Denny as a candidate for any office other than the one he currently holds. Yet it seems our lone Republican Congress Critter may be suffering from some kind of self-delusion that imagines a groundswell of support that shows no sign of existing in reality.
WHAT IS HE THINKING?
Hopefully, somebody will provide the much-warranted slap upside the head that Denny needs to come to his senses. Call it the contempt of the familiar or just a general lack of enthusiasm, whatever – but Denny’s support is lukewarm at best. He no longer generates the kind of passion that it will take to win a hard-fought campaign – primary or general.
But that’s only one side of the picture. Look at what’s going on across the aisle, where the Democrats are staring at their own 800-pound gorilla — in the guise of Brian Schweitzer. Regarded as one of the most astute political strategists around (not to mention a legend in his own mind), the Gov is also well-known for his insatiable, driving ambition. No way is he going to be content sitting on the dock at Georgetown Lake fishing. A recent telephone poll indicates that Big Bri is also eying Jon Tester’s senate seat. This is not sitting well with the Democrat Party insiders and a contested primary would be most unwelcome by the party faithful. If the poll questions are any indication of Brian’s thinking, he knows a contested primary would not end in his favor. So he’s apparently contemplating a run as an independent candidate, thus bypassing a bloody primary battle. Basing his possible campaign on his “widespread popularity” and his well-known “independent” political streak, Schweitzer apparently thinks that by running as a “non-party” candidate, he can appeal to disillusioned TEA Partiers, and the vast bastion of the politically unaware.
WHAT IS HE THINKING?
Certainly his recent attacks on the Legislature, his continued dismissive treatment of the environmentalists, and his sudden conversion to a pro-growth, pro-business agenda tend to underscore a populist campaign in the making. The party leaders will be hard-pressed to thwart the political force that Brian envisions himself to be.
It’s anybody’s guess as to how things will play out. If both Brian and Denny decide to take a whack at Jon Tester’s senate seat, poor Jon’s going to feel like the proverbial pinata for the next two years. In a three-way race – with three equally well-known candidates, there’s never a sure bet.
One thing’s for sure, though: For political junkies, it’s shaping up to be a fascinating exercise in strategery, tactics, moves, countermoves, and self-serving press-releases up the ying-yang.
Fasten your seat belts – the spin starts now!