Bullock hires senior staffers ahead of likely presidential run

Bullock hires senior staffers ahead of likely presidential run
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is hiring senior staffers in advance of an almost certain presidential campaign to be launched in the coming days.
 
While many of his Democratic rivals have touted their progressive bona fides, Bullock will kick off his campaign with a direct appeal to voters who are less concerned about ideological purity and are keen to beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE in 2020.
 
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Bullock would be the only Democratic candidate in the race to have won a reliably Republican state — twice.
 
He will cast himself as the Democrat who can reconnect the party with rural voters who have fled to the Republican Party in recent years.
 
Bullock faces long odds and a short window in which to raise money from enough donors to qualify for the first debates, which are a little more than a month away.
 
He is little known outside Montana, and he will compete against far more prolific fundraisers for donor dollars.
 
Still, he has relationships inside wealthy donor communities. Bullock ran the Democratic Governors Association in 2015, and he is the current chairman of the National Governors Association.
 
And Bullock has quietly amassed an early stable of well-known operatives who will support his campaign.
 
Nick Baldick, a veteran of Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreOvernight Energy: EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants | Regulators decline to ban pesticide linked to brain damage | NY awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts New York awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts No presidential candidate can unite the country MORE's 2000 campaign and former Sen. John Edwards's (D-N.C.) 2004 campaign, will take on a formal role as national senior adviser.
 
Sharon Páez, who worked for Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin Health care moves to center stage in Democratic primary fight Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress MORE (D-Va.) and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), will serve as Bullock's senior political adviser.
 
Jennifer Palmieri, who directed communications in the Obama White House and for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMatt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' What to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch MORE's 2016 campaign, is acting as an informal adviser, a source close to Bullock's campaign confirmed.
 
Bullock has signed Michael Bocian and Margie Omero, partners at GBAO Strategies, as his pollsters, the source said.
 
Those big names will join a young roster of operatives who have already signed up to steer Bullock's campaign.
 
Jennifer Ridder, who managed Colorado Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisColorado governor pokes fun at FaceApp Number of openly LGBTQ elected officials rose nearly 25 percent since 2018: report GOP gun rights activist arrested for flashing handgun at U.S. marshal MORE's (D) winning campaign in 2018, will run Bullock's race. Galia Slayen, who directed communications for Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) in 2018, will reprise the role for Bullock.
 
Bullock may not be well known in Iowa, but he has begun laying the groundwork in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. He has spent eight days in Iowa over the last year at 15 events, often shepherded by Attorney General Tom Miller (D), a Bullock mentor who is likely to chair his Iowa campaign.
 
Bullock, 53, has served in state government for the last 11 years, first as attorney general and then for two terms as governor. He won reelection in 2016 with 50.3 percent of the vote at the same time President Trump won the state by 21 points.
 
In office, Bullock has had to deal with a Republican-dominated legislature. He spearheaded an overhaul of campaign finance reform in a state that already has some of the lowest contribution limits in the country, and he signed an executive order in 2018 requiring state contractors to disclose contributions to "dark money" groups. 
 
Last week, he signed a bill extending Medicaid expansion for another six years, though the bill included work requirements for recipients backed by Republican legislators.
 
He has had politics in his blood since his college days, when he ran for president of his freshman class at Claremont McKenna College.
 
During that campaign, he borrowed some sheep from a nearby animal husbandry school to make his pitch to voters.
 
"A Vote for Steve Will Be a Vote for Ewe," his signs read. Bullock won the race.
 
-- Updated at 5:21 p.m.