UM professor, political analyst weighs in on Bullock’s presidential run

Posted at 3:30 PM, May 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-15 18:06:49-04

MISSOULA – Governor Steve Bullock’s Tuesday announcement that he’s running for President received plenty of praise and backlash from Montana voters — which is expected in any political race.

MTN News talked with political analyst and University of Montana professor Lee Banville to breakdown reaction to the announcement.

We received plenty of comments about Governor Bullock’s decision to enter the 2020 race.

Many asked why Bullock would enter a race with such little national name recognition? While others wondered how he is going to separate himself from a growing Democratic pool of 20 plus candidates.

As for whether or not Bullock stands a chance in the race, Banville said Bullock’s first few months on the campaign trail will shape his odds at becoming a serious contender.

“His campaign is really going to rely on grassroots. He’s going to have to go out to –especially these early states — and build a name recognition there,” Banville explained.

Lee Banville
Political analyst and University of Montana professor Lee Banville (MTN News photo)

“Even if people in California don’t know who he is right now, what he needs is Democratic activists on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire, in particular, to really respond to his message and buy-in on the idea that although it’s a long shot, he’s the kind of leader this country needs and the Democrats need at this moment,” he added.

Banville also told MTN news that Bullock is going to really have to carve out a position as someone who has done well as a Democrat in a Red State — working strongly with those on the other side of the aisle to get things done.

As for the number of Democratic candidates running, Banville says it’s going to be very interesting how Bullock differentiates himself from other moderate Democrats in the mix — and this will be a struggle for Bullock at the start.

However, Banville added that due to the large number of candidates the votes will be spread thin. something that could be very helpful for Bullock and his campaign. Additionally, Banville said Bullock is going to have to really make a real connection to voters.

Bullock Campaign Announce
Gov. Steve Bullock announcing his run presidential run on 5.14.19 in Helena. (MTN News photo)

“There are these different candidates who are really going to appeal to your heart and Bullock is kind of a head candidate. On the issues he’s gotten stuff done, he’s got Medicaid Expansion passed in a Republican-dominated legislature,” Banville told MTN News.

“He really has pushed campaign finance reform fairly effectively at the state level – but that’s all up in the brain. The challenge is the primaries are often about the heart – and the heart and the brain don’t always line up!” he added.

Banville also made a great point about how Montana will be perceived nationally if Bullock really gains some traction and that it’s going to be interesting to watch this play out.

Bullock is the only Democrat candidate who won statewide re-election in a Trump state in 2016 and Bullock has the history of campaigning well in heavily rural areas — unlike some of the other contenders from larger metropolitan areas that historically Democrat already do well in.

Reporting by Kent Luetzen for MTN News