Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who pitched himself to Democratic voters as a campaign finance reformer who could win in red states, is ending his bid for the party’s presidential nomination.
“While there were many obstacles we could not have anticipated when entering this race, it has become clear that in this moment, I won’t be able to break through to the top tier of this still-crowded field,” Bullock said in a statement. “I leave this race filled with gratitude and optimism, inspired and energized by the good people I’ve had the privilege of meeting over the course of the campaign.”
Bullock, 53, entered the race in May, arguing that a group heavy on Washington experience needed an outsider from a “Trump state.” He rejected entreaties from national Democrats to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Steve Daines, telling reporters that he had no interest in the job.
He affirmed that position Monday.
“While he plans to work hard to elect Democrats in the state and across the country in 2020, it will be in his capacity as a governor and a senior voice in the Democratic Party – not as a candidate for U.S. Senate,” said Bullock’s communications director, Galia Slayen.
Bullock’s path to the presidency was premised on electability and a bet that Democrats would be intrigued by a governor who had won Trump voters without governing as a conservative. He focused his early efforts on Iowa, where Attorney General Tom Miller immediately endorsed him, and he raised $2 million in his first six weeks while emphasizing how he had saved Montana’s transparent campaign finance laws from conservative pressure.
But his campaign never caught fire. Bullock missed the cutoff for the first debates in June because he was working with his Republican legislature to continue Montana’s Medicaid expansion. He narrowly secured a place onstage in the July debates, using his first question to criticize Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and warn that the party should not pick what he views as an unelectable nominee.
“Watching that last debate, folks seemed more concerned about scoring points or outdoing each other with wish-list economics than making sure Americans know we hear their voices and will help their lives,” Bullock said.
Democratic voters panned that debate over its negativity and hyper-focus on Medicare-for-all, and Bullock did not qualify for future debates held under stricter polling and donation standards.
He began to struggle for airtime, and his fundraising went flat.
In September, when House Democrats began an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, it became even harder for Bullock to get attention. His speech to Iowa Democrats’ Liberty and Justice Celebration was delivered to a near-empty arena; his plans on corporate taxes, infrastructure and labor law, released at the end of November, were largely ignored by the news media and voters.
Bullock’s departure from the race comes after two other highly touted Democratic governors pulled the plug. Colorado’s John Hickenlooper switched to run for Senate, while Washington’s Jay Inslee decided to seek a third term. Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is now the only candidate with experience as a state executive running for the Democratic nomination, announcing a last-minute bid two weeks ago – and noting that other candidates with bipartisan governing experience had not broken through.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · David Weigel