Friday, September 20, 2019

Presidential Qualities

Considering Bullock's Presidential Qualities

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, September 18, 2019, p. A6

Democrats will end up voting for whomever their convention picks. This column is too early for an endorsement. My favorite will be someone as a campaigner who can beat President Trump, and as president will have the competence, compassion, relationships, experience and ethics to be effective.

Get out the vote? Yes. But to win the Democrats’ candidate will have to win over independents, Libertarians, Greens, and yes, Republicans and the 40-percent-plus of voters who still support President Trump. Where do those voters live? Where Democrats must go to become a national party: those 80 percent of U.S. counties that President Trump carried in 2016.

Earlier I wrote about Marianne Williamson’s formula for Democrats’ victory – while acknowledging her odds of becoming the party’s candidate were somewhere between slim and none. ("Trump Won't Be Beat With Plans Alone," The Gazette, Aug. 17, 2019) Governor Steve Bullock’s current odds may be no better. But his qualities and strengths are something Democrats should look for in whomever they choose next July.

Bullock is the only incumbent Democratic governor to win re-election in a state that Trump carried (in Montana by 20 points).

He’s persuaded his Republican Legislature to pass progressive programs: campaign finance reform, Medicaid expansion and more. He is, as we say, mostly “right on the issues,” both as governor and as campaigner.

He’s been sufficiently pro-labor as Montana’s attorney general, governor and practicing lawyer to have been endorsed by the AFL-CIO – and Iowa’s Attorney General Tom Miller. And he’s sufficiently respected by other governors to chair the National Governors Association.

He is a young 53. I have two sons older than that.

He and his wife, Lisa, grew up in Montana, have been married to each other for 20 years and have three children. Both are well educated; he has a law degree, with honors, from Columbia, she a degree in mathematics and computer science.

[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore; Governor Steve Bullock speaking with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.]

He comes across as genuine, comfortable in his skin and his Levis. He can connect with small town folk, farmers, ranchers, and others in the mountain time zone and the 80 percent of counties Trump carried, as well as Washington (where he practiced law) and New Hampshire, where he’s picked up support.

We have no training program for presidents. Any president would benefit from experience on the receiving end of the White House’s impact on school boards, cities, counties, state governors, legislatures, the U.S. House and Senate, military, intelligence and executive branch agencies, federal courts, international organizations and our allies.

No Democratic presidential candidate today has the range of experience in those venues possessed by President George H.W. Bush (43’s father) or former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (

“Senator” is not an administrative position. Governors come the closest to the administrative and legislative challenges confronting presidents; 17 presidents had experience as governors.

Whomever the Democrats ultimately choose, Bullock provides examples of the strengths they should be seeking.

Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City is a three-time presidential appointee whose latest book about Washington is Catfish Solution. Comments:

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Links to Governor Bullock Sites
As explained in the opening paragraph, this blog post is NOT an endorsement. But if you are intrigued by what you've just read, here are links to Governor Bullock's Web site and some of his supporters' Facebook pages:

Web Page
Bullock 2020,, and see "Meet Steve,"

Steve Bullock For President
Bullock For America
Governor Steve Bullock
Gov. Steve Bullock For President 2020

And here are some of the sources used in writing this post:

(1) Brandon Duffy, “Democratic hopeful Steve Bullock on what Amazon and President Trump have in common, and why young voters should care,” CNBC, Sept. 1, 2019,

(2)Wikipedia, “Steve Bullock (American politician),”

(3) S Grace Panetta, “Steve Bullock is running for president in 2020. Here's everything we know about the candidate and how he stacks up against the competition,” Business Insider, Jul. 31, 2019, 11:11 AM

(4) Steve Bullock’s Biography, Vote Smart,

(5) Jonathan Martin, “Steve Bullock, Montana Governor, Is Running for President,” New York Times, May 14, 2019, p. A18,

(6) Steve Israel, “Can Steve Bullock Win?” The Hill, Aug. 21, 2019,

(7) “First Lady Lisa Bullock,” Office of Governor Steve Bullock,” undated,

(8) “List of Presidents of the United States by Previous Experience,” Wikipedia

(9) The tinyurl following the Governor Bill Richardson experience reference ( links to one of my prior Gazette columns, “Candidates’ ‘Experience,’” (The Gazette, March 30, 2008, p. A9,

(10) For number of counties carried by Trump in 2016 see, e.g., Mark Muro and Sifan Liu, “Another Clinton-Trump Divide: High-Output America vs Low-Output America,” The Avenue, Brookings, Nov. 29, 2016

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Note: Some of the handful of words that were deleted for reasons of space in the published column have been included in this version.

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