Politics Watch: Notes from Montana

BOZEMAN, Montana—My weekend with my pals at PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center, is almost over.  I managed to get in a quick afternoon hike through the smoke of nearby forest fires—the smoke may explain why this nearby iPhone photo is so washed out.  I also got to pick the brain of John Batchelor of the John Batchelor radio show for tips for the next time I sub for Bill Bennett.

Getting radio tips from John Batchelor

And I managed to take in some TV spots for the Senate race, one of the Power Line Pick Six spotlight races featuring Denny Rehberg against incumbent Democrat Jon Tester.  At least I think Jon Tester is the incumbent Democrat.  From his TV spots, a person who doesn’t follow politics would have to conclude that Tester has switched parties and become a Republican.  His ads all tout his opposition to Obama on nearly every front.  He voted for the Keystone pipeline.  He voted for a balanced budget amendment (but how about just voting for a budget—any budget, eh?).  He’s for gun rights, tax cuts, and “all of the above” energy.  One thing he doesn’t say whether he’s for or against is another Senate with Harry Reid as majority leader.  Someone ought to ask him.  Rehberg’s ads might want to do this, too.

This is not a new tactic for liberals who depend on camouflage and the game laws to survive in mountain states like Montana.  Over at The New Republic online, our favorite thoughtful liberal, Bill Galston, reflects on the doldrums of the Romney campaign just now, noting that if Obama wins it may prove that the age of personality-based campaigns is finally and fully ascendant over real issues like the economy:

If [Obama] ends up winning, the skeptics—of whom I have been one—will have to acknowledge that the Obama team understands something important about twenty-first century politics that we don’t.  An Obama victory would suggest a more personalized, identity-based brand of politics can trump traditional economic metrics, even when times are tough.

But Galston also adds:

It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that the race is effectively over and that Obama can just run out the clock. At precisely this point of the 2004 election, George W. Bush led John Kerry by 5.7 points—49.0 to 43.3—but ended up winning by only 2.4 points, 50.7 to 48.3. Between September 13 and election day, support for Bush increased by only 1.7 points while Kerry’s support jumped by 5 points.