By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
MISSOULA — Listening to Republican congressional nominee Steve Daines of Bozeman here at the Montana GOP convention, you might not know he’s facing a Democratic state senator from Billings in November.
Instead of discussing his general election foe, Sen. Kim Gillan, D-Billings, Daines, a businessman, framed the race for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat as a contest to defeat President Barack Obama’s agenda.
“We have a president and some leaders in Congress who want to take us down the path to Western Europe,” Daines said, a reference to that region’s debt crisis.
Touting his 28 years in the private sector, Daines said his executive experience is badly needed in the Washington, D.C.
“If there are two things I’ve learned, it’s how to create jobs and how to balance a budget,” he explained.
With an eye to his “Less Government, More Jobs” campaign platform, Daines said the federal government needs to encourage the private sector, not hold it back through red tape, rules and regulation.
“I think it’s about time we stand up and we restrain and regulate our federal government,” he said, earning a round of cheers from convention-goers.
After the lunchtime address, Daines said he plans to stick to his jobs platform through the contest.
“I’ll be running on that platform, and whether it’s the president, senator or representative that believes different, we talk about these major differences in philosophy,” the candidate explained.
During the interview, he never uttered Gillan’s name.
To spur the economy, Daines said he wants to simplify the tax code, encourage resource development and provide incentives to business. He also wants to reduce federal spending and debt, likely a top issue for voters nationwide.
“It’s debilitating,” Daines said in his speech of “runaway spending” and national debt.
The Bozeman Republican holds a significant money advantage over Gillan, winner of a seven-way June 5 primary race. Daines’ war chest exceeds $700,000, while Gillan holds a modest $64,000, according to May 16 Federal Election Commission disclosure reports.
Gillan started the race as an underdog. A Public Policy Polling survey of 934 Montana voters, taken April 26-29, showed Daines with 33 percent support, to Gillan’s 27 percent. Another 40 percent are undecided. The margin of error was 3.2 percentage points.
Bowen Greenwood, state GOP executive director, told Watchdog.org on Thursday that Daines’ funding edge won’t win him the election.
“It’s going to be because the people of Montana want to see a job-creating agenda,” said Greenwood.