Democratic Group Buys Ads in Montana Supporting Libertarian Candidate

It is rare that a Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate (or any other office) is able to spent $500,000 on television ads over the course of an election. Most U.S. Senate candidates for the Libertarian Party are working off of a budget that is just a fraction of that size. However, in Montana a group called Montana Hunters and Anglers Leadership Fund that is supporting the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate have purchased over half a million dollars in TV ads encouraging conservatives to support Libertarian Dan Cox. The intention of the move, of course, is to “split” the conservative vote, thereby giving the Democratic candidate a better shot at victory.

Polling prior to these ads has consistently shown Dan Cox to be hovering around 6-8%.

36 thoughts on “Democratic Group Buys Ads in Montana Supporting Libertarian Candidate

  1. Trent Hill Post author

    500k is no small market buy, either. In Montana, that’s a big investment. Rehberg wasn’t likely to win anyway, so I’d like to see Cox score double digits here.

  2. Kyle Kneale

    While it helps libertarians now, methinks this could backfire. If Rehberg loses by Cox’s vote % or more, it’ll be added ammunition to the “vote for X is a vote for Y” camp since this is done by a top-2 group.

  3. Thomas L. Knapp

    Kyle,

    “If Rehberg loses by Cox’s vote % or more, it’ll be added ammunition to the ‘vote for X is a vote for Y’ camp since this is done by a top-2 group.”

    I think you mean if Rehberg loses by Cox’s vote or LESS.

    If Tester wins by 10% and Cox only gets 8%, then the logic will be that Tester was going to win anyway, even if all of Cox’s voters had gone to Rehberg.

    But if Tester only wins by 5% and Cox gets 10%, then the logic will be “even even half of Cox’s voters had gone with Rehberg instead, Rehberg would have won.”

  4. Mark Axinn

    It’s great news no matter what happens in the election. (In the best of all possible worlds, we will spoil lots of elections.) Obviously, the D’s have a lot more money to spend on advertising than we ever do and I’d rather see them spend it promoting Libertarian candidates than universal health care!

  5. Steven Wilson

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This is not news.

    I think it is exciting to see libertarians work marketing mix into it. Especially with so many voters complaining about buying votes. Congrats to Montana.

  6. Joe Buchman

    This is great news. I’d expect it to serve to increase the vote total for all Libertarian candidates there, including the Johnson/Gray ticket.

  7. Marc Allan Feldman

    This is bad news. What happened to the “Party of Principle?” People can support whoever they want, but I don’t have to like it.

    It makes me feel sick and dirty to get support from people whose views and actions are detrimental to our world. These include racists, war-mongers, drug dealers, large multinational corporations, Republicans and Democrats.

  8. paulie

    Any and all of those are welcome to spend their money to promote LP candidates. It is probably better than whatever else they would spend their money on. I am not thrilled about this information being used to imply that we are a front for the Democrats, but at the same time it is their money and we can’t tell them what to do with it.

  9. Tim Doran

    It sure says something about the Republican and/or Democratic candidate when their own supporters feel a 500K investment is much better spent on making the Libertarian candidate better known rather than trying to make their own candidate more likable/electable.

  10. paulie

    Their candidate won’t appeal to some voters that the LP can appeal to. They want to squeeze the Republican from different directions. Fine by me; where else are we getting 500k to advertise a Senate candidate in a relatively low population state?

  11. Tim Doran

    Oh yeah, I understand the strategy. Makes sense. But when you step back from modern electoral strategy, that is exactly what they are doing – investing 500K in making a 3rd candidate look good rather than making their own guy look good enough to win outright. That really says something.

  12. paulie

    O/T is 712-432-0190 the right number for the regional call on Tuesdays? I called at 7 PM central last week thru 7: 15 and I was the only one on the call, but then Ashley told me the call did happen…so I am a bit confused.

  13. Gene Berkman

    Actually the Democrat incumbent in Montana is not nearly as bad as most Democrats. He ran in 2006 with an ad attacking the Patriot Act, and he is less pro-war than the Republican candidate.

    This kind of spending is a bonus, but we cannot bank on it for long-term growth of The Libertarian Party.

  14. Tim Doran

    No, it is 712-432-0800 and at 8:00pm ET Tuesday. Ashley got confused talking with Chris about a different call for regional director’s on Monday nights. Sorry for the confusion

    the -0190 is for the National State Director’s call with Campaign HQ on Tuesdays at 9:00pm ET.

    I will email you the dial in code for the Tuesday Call.

  15. Marc Allan Feldman

    Pauli@16
    “They want to squeeze the Republican from different directions. Fine by me; ”

    Then you have no reason to complain when they spend $500,000 to put out ads attacking the LP candidate because they think the “split” will go against them.

    Money is becoming less effective at influencing elections, that is why right now they have to spend more of it. Eventually it will become ineffective and candidates will have to rely on their own merits and communication skills.

  16. paulie

    Paul, or Paulie. The i and the e are a package deal.

    Then you have no reason to complain when they spend $500,000 to put out ads attacking the LP candidate because they think the “split” will go against them.

    At this point ads attacking LP candidates would be great because they would raise our name recognition. The biggest problem our candidates have is that most people don’t even know they are running until election day and have no idea who they are or what they are about when they see their names on the ballot.

    So, would I be happy to see Democrats and Republicans spending a ton of money to raise public awareness of our candidates and cause at least some people to go top their sites to find out who they are? Yes.

    Money is becoming less effective at influencing elections, that is why right now they have to spend more of it. Eventually it will become ineffective and candidates will have to rely on their own merits and communication skills.

    I hope you’re right but we are a long way from that.

  17. paulie

    When Republicans or Democrats spend money attacking Libertarians, I think the attack ads usually help the Libertarian do better.

    That’s what I meant, thanks. Let’s get them to spend their money promoting and attacking us. What could be better?

  18. Mark Axinn

    Gandhi’s famous line about first ignoring us, then ridiculing us, then attacking…

    I wish we were at that level, and maybe one day we will be, but meanwhile all publicity is beneficial and who are we to question when they eat their own!

  19. Trent Hill Post author

    “The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This is not news.”

    Yes, yes it is. $500,000 is being spent on ads that mention a libertarian party candidate. That’s news here.

  20. Mike Jones

    500 k spent to help a Libertarian take votes away from a Republican, and help a relatively more pro-liberty Democrat? Sounds good to me.

  21. Trent Hill Post author

    I think the “relatively more pro-liberty” part is pretty arguable. Rehberg was endorsed by Ron Paul, I imagine that was for a reason.

  22. Mike Jones

    Maybe, but not necessarily. Ron Paul has also endorsed a bunch of completely un-Ron Paul-like establishment Republicans in many races as well.

    Something about building coalitions and one hand washing the other. Might have also had to do with Benton’s influence, which will hopefully not be the case any more now that Benton has gone all the way and gone to work for McConnell.

  23. Ted Brown

    @24 The spending will surely help our candidate. In San Diego, CA in 1990, Republicans were worried about a Libertarian taking votes away from their incumbent, so they ran attack ads against our candidate, accusing her of being a convicted felon and tax resister. No one heard of her before that, and she ended up with 12%, way more than the Republican lost by.

    On a more similar note to Montana, Democrats put about $50,000 into a Libertarian State Senate candidate’s race in the Central Valley of CA a few years ago in order to help defeat a Republican who won anyway. Our candidate didn’t know this was even happening until he got the flyer in the mail. He also got a good vote total, I think over 5% in a very tight race.

  24. Be Rational

    The ad @32 will not help the LP much. There is no use of the word “Libertarian” and no mention of the LP. It calls Cox the “Real Conservative.”

    However, the single issue in the ad is fine and is sure to draw votes to Cox. It should help set him up with greater name recognition for future campaigns.

  25. Tim Doran

    “The ad @32 will not help the LP much. There is no use of the word ‘Libertarian’ and no mention of the LP. ”

    All true, but when people check him out after seeing a commercial, wonder why there is a third candidate, punch his ticket on election day and see (L) next to his name, or just listen to election returns that will all inevitably reveal his party affiliation and bring needed attention to the LP. Also, (and don’t underestimate this) people seeing that real money is being spent on a Libertarian race often makes voters feel the Libertarian Party is “serious” or has “serious resources”. As shallow a judgment as that is, it is one that still matters to the casual voter. They don’t know who the buyer is, just that big money is being spent promoting the L candidate.

  26. Mike Jones

    The ad @32 will not help the LP much. There is no use of the word “Libertarian” and no mention of the LP. It calls Cox the “Real Conservative.”

    True, but his vote totals and vote percentage will still help the LP down the line, so it helps the LP indirectly.

    As well as what Tim Doran said.

  27. Mike Jones

    Republicans could now send targeted direct mail to known or likely conservatives pointing out how Cox is very liberal on a bunch of issues. Not sure if that would be cost effective for them.

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