Fat Man In A Hurry

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The Weekly Standard's Matt Continetti has a must-read profile of Jon Tester, the no-bullshit (some say) "Libertarian Democrat" gunning to take Conrad Burns' Senate seat in Montana. Tester, remember, was the guy who said "I don't want to weaken the PATRIOT Act. I want to repeal it." When Burns turned that soundbite into an ad, Tester refused to back down.

If he is elected, he will become the most liberal senator from Montana in decades. He is a true dove. When I asked him when he would support the use of military force overseas, he said, "Last resort. You've exhausted all other options, then you use military force." He wouldn't say much more. Eventually he added that he supported the war in Afghanistan, "You bet." When I asked him about the Patriot Act, which he has said he would like to see repealed, he softened his language. "We ought not to cut the judicial branch out of it," he said. "If it can't meet constitutional muster, it's got to be scrapped." When I asked him who his political hero was, he chose a stock answer for Democrats, saying that Theodore Roosevelt was a "great man" on "a lot of different fronts." But then he paused, and added that he admired Mike Mansfield, the antiwar Democrat who represented Montana in the U.S. Senate from 1953 to 1977.

It is probably Tester's dovishness, in a post-9/11 world, that has prevented him from opening a double-digit lead over Burns in the polls. In the end, though, this race will be decided on how well the embattled incumbent has represented Montana's interests. Tester's positions on national security issues and his sometimes vaporous rhetoric probably won't matter. Some people even find this latter aspect of his political persona endearing.

There's some analysis of the "libertarian Democrat" phenomenon/trope, too. Continetti spoke to Reason about Jack Abramoff back in May.