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Bullock boasts experience as red-state governor, continues narrative about removing dark money from politics

Montana Governor Steve Bullock visited Saints Rest on Sunday, Nov. 17 and cited his Montana roots as evidence that he can connect to rural voters. Photo contributed by Bullock’s campaign.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock visited Saints Rest on Sunday, Nov. 17 and cited his Montana roots as evidence that he can connect to rural voters. Photo contributed by Bullock’s campaign.

In his first visit to Grinnell Democratic presidential candidate Steve Bullock emphasized his ability to win over Republican voters, even those who voted for Trump, and his ability to pass progressive legislation through a Republican legislature as reason for Iowans to elect him as the Democratic nominee.

Despite polling at 0 percent in Iowa, according to the latest CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll, Bullock said he is the most qualified to beat Trump in the 2020 general election because he is the only presidential candidate to win a statewide election in a state Trump won. Bullock is currently serving his second term as Governor of Montana, and he won both of his elections during presidential years in which the Republican candidate won the state. In 2016, Bullock won re-election at the same time as Trump beat Clinton by 20 points.

On Sunday, Nov. 17, Bullock addressed a crowd of over 100 people in Saints Rest to make this case to Iowa caucus-goers.

In an interview with The S&B, Bullock cited his electoral victories as qualifying him to be the candidate chosen to take on Trump. “I’m the only one in this field that actually won in a Trump state, and if we can’t win back places that we lost, we’re not gonna win,” he said.

During his speech to the audience, he said, “I’m a single-issue voter, and that issue is beating Donald Trump.”

Bullock also stressed the importance of including rural perspectives in the Democratic Party. He told the S&B, “We can’t be leaving areas behind. … If we can’t make connections in the part of the country a lot of people think is a flyover, we’re never going to be able to govern.” During his speech he joked, “Any Democrat with a pulse will win Massachusetts and California,” and emphasized his ability to win rural areas as a strength of his campaign.

He also stressed his role as a governor as a strength of his campaign, boasting a record of executive leadership on issues such as money in politics, healthcare, abortion and gun control. This record includes passing legislation through a Republican legislature to expand Medicare to 92,000 new people, which is about 10 percent of Montana’s population. It also includes vetoes on bills limiting abortions and background checks.

Bullock told The S&B, “Dark money that’s coming in and influencing the system … that’s been the fight of my career,” and told his audience that the influence of dark money is the reason legislation has stagnated on all other issues Democrats are talking about. As part of his plan to limit its influence, Bullock said that on his first day in office he would sign an executive order requiring financial transparency of all companies engaging in contracts with the federal government.

Students in the audience were impressed with his speaking ability, but they were still not convinced to caucus for him.

Theo Deitz-Green ’23 is from New Jersey but plans to caucus in Iowa, though he is still undecided on what candidate he will support. He said it is, “impressive that he was able to win in Montana, and then it seems like he was able to accomplish a lot with a Republican legislature, so I think he’s very impressive as a governor. I think he would be a good president.” However, Deitz-Green said he was concerned about Bullock’s polling numbers. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like he’s gaining much traction,” he said.

Another student, Maddi Shinall ’23, says she is planning on caucusing for Warren but was impressed with Bullock. “I thought he was a really good speaker. I liked that he tied all of his ideas to things that he’s done already in the state of Montana, especially as a Democrat who’s won a statewide election in a Republican state,” she said.

Two other students, Thomas Grindle ’23 and Mary Jane Uzzi ’23, both said they plan to caucus for Buttigieg but were interested in hearing from Bullock. “I do like the fact that he’s younger and has children and a lived experience that relates to this process,” Uzzi said.

All students said they believed that if Bullock were the Democratic nominee, he would likely beat Trump. “He’s a really good speaker, but not a lot of people have heard of him. I think if he started to get more airtime, he would have more support, and I think he would be able to beat Donald Trump,” Grindle said.

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