NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Steve Bullock ends his presidential bid

On Mon­day, Montana’s Gov­er­nor Steve Bul­lock announced to CNN that he would be aban­don­ing his bid for the 2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

Point­ing to the still-enor­­mous field of Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­tenders, Bul­lock said: “While there were many obsta­cles we could not have antic­i­pat­ed when enter­ing this race, it has become clear that in this moment, I won’t be able to break through to the top tier of this still-crowd­ed field of can­di­dates.”

Steve Bullock speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding

Steve Bul­lock speaks at the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic Wing Ding (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Gov­er­nor Bul­lock is the lat­est exam­ple of the weird dynam­ic with­in the 2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry cycle, one in which polit­i­cal expe­ri­ence and exec­u­tive skill seem to mat­ter very lit­tle. Of the top ten polling can­di­dates, two (Andrew Yang and Tom Stey­er) have nev­er held elect­ed office, one (Pete Buttigieg) is a mil­len­ni­al with only may­oral expe­ri­ence, and one (Michael Bloomberg) has won elec­tions as a Repub­li­can and Inde­pen­dent, but nev­er as a Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­tender.

Mean­while, mul­ti-term gov­er­nors with sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal and leg­isla­tive achieve­ments under their belts – Colorado’s John Hick­en­loop­er, Washington’s Jay Inslee, and now Steve Bul­lock – have fall­en by the way­side.

Bullock’s can­di­da­cy nev­er real­ly made it off the ground; his polling scraped along at around 1%, he strug­gled to raise funds and he only man­aged to get on stage in the July debate before being left behind by ris­ing entry require­ments.

His num­bers prob­a­bly weren’t helped by the fact that he was swept up in a slugfest between pro­gres­sives and neolib­er­al can­di­dates in his only debate per­for­mance.

Bullock’s debate per­for­mance was par­tic­u­lar­ly embar­rass­ing for him, as his defin­ing moment con­sist­ed of start­ing an unpro­voked fight with Eliz­a­beth War­ren over nuclear weapons, of all things. Vot­ers came away from that debate with the uneasy real­iza­tion that a Pres­i­dent Bul­lock would seem­ing­ly have no qualms about autho­riz­ing sur­prise nuclear strikes, like some deranged com­ic book vil­lain.

The real dam­age the debate did to Bullock’s can­di­da­cy was that it gave across the impres­sion that he was mere­ly part of a bloc of neolib­er­al can­di­dates.

But Bullock’s can­di­da­cy didn’t fit neat­ly into a pro­gres­sives vs. neolib­er­al frame­work. Despite his views on Medicare For All and nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion, the Mon­tana Gov­er­nor has a strong pro­gres­sive streak.

He described him­self as a “pro-choice, pro-union Demo­c­rat,” and railed against the insid­i­ous role of big mon­ey in pol­i­tics. How­ev­er, the unusu­al dynam­ics of this con­test didn’t allow him to make this case to the vot­ers effec­tive­ly.

Anoth­er key sell­ing point that Bul­lock was unable to cap­i­tal­ize upon was his posi­tion as the only Demo­c­rat to win statewide elec­tion in a red state in 2016.

Bul­lock was able to com­fort­ably win reelec­tion despite the fact that Mon­tana swung for Trump by over twen­ty points! This abil­i­ty to appeal to con­ser­v­a­tive vot­ers should have been com­pelling to Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers, but was large­ly drowned out in the cru­cial ear­ly stages by the sea of con­tenders (now that the field has thinned some­what, Sen­a­tor Amy Klobuchar is mak­ing a sim­i­lar pitch more effec­tive­ly).

Bullock’s polit­i­cal path is now unclear.

Hav­ing aban­doned his White House cam­paign, he will also have to aban­don the governor’s res­i­dence in Hele­na after 2020; Mon­tana has guber­na­to­r­i­al term-lim­its. Bul­lock has also unequiv­o­cal­ly ruled out run­ning for the U.S. Sen­ate – despite the fact that incum­bent Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Steve Daines’ seat is up in 2020.

How­ev­er, a Sen­ate run for Bul­lock is still a pos­si­bil­i­ty. After dis­miss­ing a Sen­ate run while he was still a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Colorado’s John Hick­en­loop­er was con­vinced to mount a Sen­ate cam­paign against Cory Gard­ner. Bul­lock could still be lob­bied by forces with­in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty into chal­leng­ing Daines.

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One Comment

  1. Well… is any­one real­ly sur­prised? Bul­lock was­n’t going any­where.

    # by Woody Hamilton :: December 3rd, 2019 at 11:23 AM

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