With Congressman Denny Rehberg throwing his hat into the ring to take on Senator Jon Tester, it leaves the Montana’s 2012 House race wide open.
U.S. Senate candidate Steve Daines announced that he was changing races; now he is running for the open U.S. House seat (an “open seat” refers to a race where there’s no incumbent running for re-election) and a State Legislator, Franke Wilmer, has decided to jump into the race.
Rest assured there will be more candidates; I predict many more. In the 2010 primary election, there were seven candidates on the ballot and that was with incumbent Congressman Rehberg on the ballot. I expect there will be at least that many candidates as open seats stir the emotions of people and they remember the “immortal” words of Stuart Smalley, “Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!”
The roadmap to victory is really pretty easy for a Primary Election: Meet and greet as many of the party faithful as you can, spend some money schmoozing them, and rally your party’s faithful to vote for you. If you are already well-known in your political party then you have the upper hand, but that does not guarantee victory.
There isn’t much of a chance for Independents to be elected in Montana.
Winning the General Election is tougher. With most of the candidates not having the coveted “name recognition” that it is the biggest hurdle to clear. Most people will be saying, “Who” unless some well-known person jumps in the U.S. House race.
In a November Montana Senate poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PDF), they reported that “76% of voters are unaware of Daines” and that will probably be the case for many of the candidates in the 2012 U.S. House race. To counter this problem, it takes money – lots of money to get your name ID up – and that makes fundraising for most candidates a major goal. If a candidate is good at fundraising, they have the inside track.
Candidates also need a “ground game.” By “ground game” I mean volunteers in every one of Montana’s 56 counties hitting the doors, attending events, speaking on their candidates’ behalf and spreading their candidate’s name around the county. Montana is a big state and a candidate cannot be everywhere, so they need trusted volunteers to help them.
With almost every race on the 2012 ballot, time is a wasting for candidates to get good volunteers lined up for their race.
Ads on television, radio, on the internet, in newspapers, and other sources are the mother’s milk to get the name ID up. Doing as many interviews with the local media are good to do as long as you feel at ease doing interviews, although few, if any, reporters in Montana ask tough questions.
With Republican Steve Daines already participating in a statewide race (albeit a losing one as a Lieutenant Governor candidate) and with an early start, he does have to be considered a favorite for the GOP.
But it is a long time until June of 2012, when the Primary Election happens. One thing we can be sure of is that the candidates for Montana’s U.S. House in 2012 will be kissing a lot of babies along the way…
Key dates for the 2012 Election Season (from the Montana Secretary of State):
January 12, 2012: First day to file for office
March 12, 2012: Last Day to file for office (by 5:00 p.m.)
June 5, 2012: Primary Election
November 6, 2012: General Election