By Dustin Hurst ǀ Watchdog.org
MISSOULA —The Montana Republican Party is continually attempting to tie Democratic gubernatorial nominee Steve Bullock to President Barack Obama, but a high-level pollster says that’s a risky gambit.
Scott Rasmussen, head of Rasmussen Reports, a political polling and survey firm, told reporters on a webinar Thursday that the Montana GOP’s attempts to tie Bullock to the unpopular Obama, who notches a dreary 34 percent approval rating among Treasure State residents, is not a sure-fire strategy.
“It has some impact,” Rasmussen explained, adding it’s more effective to link a federal office candidate to an unpopular president. He did not say if the strategy could backfire or affect the race negatively. The webinar on the 2012 races was sponsored by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the parent nonprofit of Wisconsin Reporter, and Ballotpedia, a website on state politics.
Montana Republicans have launched several attacks on Bullock, now the state’s attorney general, for his refusal last year to join 26 other states in suing the federal government over the constitutionality of Obama’s 2010 health care reforms.
“If Steve Bullock won’t fight for us on Obamacare, how can we trust him to fight for us as governor?” an April 17 GOP commercial asks.
In mid-2010, Bullock defended his decision to abstain from the suit, telling observers he believed the health law would survive a constitutional challenge.
“That does not mean, however, that the state of Montana should spend taxpayer money to file a lawsuit that we do not believe has legal merit,” Bullock said, according to the Billings Gazette.
Less than a year after Bullock took a pass, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed legislation to compel Bullock to sue over the health reforms, but Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed the measure.
The legal challenge will be decided by the end of the month by the U.S. Supreme Court, with some pundits hinting a decision on the case could be handed down within days. If some or part of the law is thrown out, Rasmussen believes the race to the governor’s mansion might become much tougher for the Democrat.
“It will be very difficult for him to argue against joining the suit,” Rasmussen said.
A call to Bullock’s campaign late Thursday was not returned.
Bowen Greenwood, state GOP executive director here in Missoula for the party’s convention, said Thursday the tactic has been effective and he plans continued deployment of it in the months leading to November’s general elections.
“The fact of the matter is that Steve Bullock had the chance to defend Montana from Obamacare, and he didn’t take that chance,” Bowen said after the convention’s opening speeches tonight.
“Steve Bullock shares responsibility for the Obama agenda and we need people to be aware of that.”
Bullock faces former U.S. House Rep. Rick Hill, a Republican, in November.