Government

Steve Bullock looking to introduce himself as someone who won in Trump country

Montana Governor and Democratic candidate for president Steve Bullock talks to the media after finishing the 5k race in the Corridor Running Fifth Season Race in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (David Harmantas/Freelance)
Montana Governor and Democratic candidate for president Steve Bullock talks to the media after finishing the 5k race in the Corridor Running Fifth Season Race in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (David Harmantas/Freelance)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock doesn’t think his “late” start on the Iowa campaign trail has hurt him.

“I mean, Bill Clinton didn’t announce until October,” said Bullock, who entered the already crowded field of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls in mid-May.

As he campaigns in Iowa, he’s finding a “sense of excitement and an urgency about getting to make sure we have somebody who can beat Donald Trump,” Bullock said during a stop at a Cedar Rapids coffeehouse Thursday.

Iowa voters he’s talked to want to “make the right decision, not the fastest,” he added.

Bullock, 53, is trying to make the case that as a governor of a state Donald Trump carried while Bullock won re-election makes him a strong candidate to challenge the president.

“I think I cannot only bring out Democrats, but win back the places we lost,” he said, referring to the third of Iowa counties where voters backed Barack Obama twice, but voted for Trump in 2016. “I’m the only guy who actually won in a Trump state. I think there’s some appeal there.”

He’ll get to make his case from the debate stage later this month during the second round of Democratic National Committee debates on CNN.

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He’ll be introducing himself as “someone who actually won” in a state that Trump carried by 20 percentage points at the same time he was re-elected by 4 percentage points. More than a quarter of the voters who supported Bullock also voted for Trump.

“We need somebody who can bridge some of the divides,” he said.

Bullock stressed that as a Democratic governor in a Republican state he’s been able to get “progressive and meaningful things done.”

“We have the fourth lowest tuition and fees,” said Bullock, who won reauthorization of Medicaid expansion from the GOP legislature.

“We went from 20 percent uninsured to 7 percent,” he said, “and there are ways you can make sure that everyone has access to affordable health care without disrupting 165 million people who are on employer-sponsored insurance.”

Although debates can play an important role in boosting visibility, Bullock doesn’t see the July 30-31 debates in Detroit as make-or-break for his campaign.

“The real deciders aren’t NBC or CNN,” he said. “The real deciders are those engaged, active, Iowa nice voters who say, ‘You’re on my list.’ Then the question is how long is that list?”

• Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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