Hid­ing his so­cial­ism be­neath a cowboy hat

Mon­tanan Rob Quist tries to ride Bernie San­ders to Washington

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By David A. Keene

Fresh from special elec­tion de­feats in Kansas and Ge­or­gia, Demo­cratic pro­fes­sion­als and ac­tivists alike are fo­cus­ing on the elec­tion to fill In­te­rior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Mon­tana con­gres­sional seat as one more chance to chip away at the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the House. Their can­di­date in Mon­tana is a 69-year-old coun­try singer en­am­ored of Bernie San­ders and the left wing of the new Demo­cratic Party who would, if elected, be wel­comed with open arms by the San­ders-El­iz­a­beth War­ren wing of the party as an­other foot sol­dier in the quasi-so­cial­ist re­sis­tance.

To get to Washington, how­ever, Rob Quist faces the for­mi­da­ble task of con­vinc­ing Trea­sure State vot­ers that he’s more Mon­tanan than so­cial­ist; that wear­ing a cowboy hat and rid­ing the anti-Trump anger of fel­low Democrats will get them to ig­nore his per­sonal, pro­fes­sional and po­lit­i­cal record. Whether that will work re­mains to be seen, but even as he’s worked to

mod­er­ate his pub­lic state­ments on hot but­ton is­sues, Bernie San­ders’ “re­sis­tance” has dumped some $2 mil­lion into his cam­paign, and “pro­gres­sive” con­trib­u­tors who helped raise $8 mil­lion in an at­tempt to win a special elec­tion in Ge­or­gia are dou­bling down in Mon­tana. Mr. Quist will have all the money he’ll need if he can get vot­ers to buy what he’s sell­ing or, ig­nore what he’s said in the past.

He’s run­ning against Greg Gian­forte, a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man who last year lost a close race for gov­er­nor be­cause, while liv­ing in Mon­tana for 24 years, he must live with the mis­for­tune of hav­ing been born in New Jer­sey. Mr. Gian­forte is a de­cent man and as con­ser­va­tive as the typ­i­cal Mon­tana voter, but doesn’t sport a Stet­son or look like the sort of mus­ta­chioed gui­tar-strum­ming so­cial­ist one might find at a Bernie San­ders rally. On the other hand, Mr. Gian­forte is per­son­able, ar­tic­u­late, a strong gun rights sup­porter, op­poses lib­eral abor­tion laws and wants, like most Mon­tanans, to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare as soon as pos­si­ble.

Mr. Trump car­ried Mon­tana by 20 points last Novem­ber even as in­cum­bent Demo­cratic Gov. Steve Bul­lock edged out Mr. Gian­forte to win re­elec­tion. Gun rights are al­ways an issue in Mon­tana, and Mr. Bul­lock man­aged to defuse the po­si­tions he had taken by sim­ply ly­ing about what he’d said and done. He falsely claimed credit for the state leg­is­la­ture’s passage of pro-gun leg­is­la­tion and ducked and dodged when Mr. Gian­forte drew attention to his veto of half a dozen other pro-Sec­ond Amend­ment mea­sures that ended up on his desk. The issue hurt him, but it wasn’t enough to de­rail his re-elec­tion.

Mr. Quist is betting that what worked for the gov­er­nor might work for him. Af­ter be­ing caught by the Gian­forte cam­paign sug­gest­ing ei­ther a ban on or reg­is­tra­tion of semi­au­to­matic firearms he and many pro­gres­sives pre­fer to call “as­sault weapons,” he re­versed field and cut a tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial dur­ing which he shoul­dered a ri­fle and shot out a tele­vi­sion screen, declar­ing that he “won’t stand by while a mil­lion­aire from New Jer­sey tries to at­tack my Mon­tana val­ues.” Mr. Gian­forte isn’t let­ting him wig­gle away, how­ever, and is run­ning ads in which he says, “Some folks just don’t get it. Our Sec­ond Amend­ment rights are not up for ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

The Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and other gun rights groups have weighed in on Mr. Gian­forte’s side and while the race is about far more than the Sec­ond Amend­ment, Mon­tanans don’t gen­er­ally take kindly to can­di­dates who agree more with former Pres­i­dent Obama and the lead­er­ship of a party ded­i­cated to weak­en­ing or abol­ish­ing their rights. Mr. Quist will no doubt spend more be­tween now and when vot­ers go to the polls on May 25 and in­tends to stump the state with Mr. San­ders, his hero and big­gest backer. But Mr. Gian­forte has friends, too. Pres­i­dent Trump was there last week af­ter Don­ald Trump Jr. an avid sports­man and firearms en­thu­si­ast who spends a good deal of time hunt­ing in Mon­tana, cam­paigned for sev­eral days with Mr. Gian­forte.

Mon­tana Sen. Steve Daines summed up the prob­lems fac­ing Mr. Quist the other day in a tweet, which is ap­par­ently how politi­cians get their mes­sage out these days. “Rob Quist,” tweeted the se­na­tor, “is FOR gun reg­is­tra­tion, FOR Bernie, FOR sanc­tu­ary cities, & FOR a sin­gle payer health sys­tem.”

Democrats are betting that’s a winning for­mula in Mon­tana, but may face just an­other dis­ap­point­ment once the vot­ers speak.

Mon­tanans don’t gen­er­ally take kindly to can­di­dates who agree more with former Pres­i­dent Obama and the lead­er­ship of a party ded­i­cated to weak­en­ing or abol­ish­ing their rights..

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