• Paul Steinhauser

Bullock trip to NH sparks 2020 speculation

Updated: Oct 25, 2018

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, left, shakes hands with a guest as he arrives for a house party supporting Democratic candidates in Hampton. (AP photo/Charles Krupa)

CONCORD -- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s jam-packed two-day trip to the Granite State was officially about helping Democrats win in November’s midterm elections. But the two-term Democratic governor’s visit appeared to be as much about 2020 as it was about 2018.

Bullock’s appearance in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary in the race for the White House, came just one week after he made his third stop this year in Iowa, which kicks off the presidential caucus and primary calendar.

Bullock told The Associated Press that regarding a potential White House bid, he’s merely “listening quite a bit, trying to learn where things are not just here but around the country. And that, for now, is as far as it goes.”

He added that he hasn’t “set any timetables to do anything else.”

But when it comes to Bullock’s potential presidential aspirations, his itinerary while in New Hampshire appeared to be more telling than what he actually said.

On Friday, the governor kicked off his visit by meeting with Manchester Democrats at the Puritan Backroom restaurant, a must stop for White House hopefuls. Later in the day, he headlined a fundraiser in Hampton for state House Democrats before dining in Portsmouth with some party leaders and activists.

Bullock was in Concord on Saturday, headlining a New Hampshire Democratic Party canvassing kickoff before serving as the main attraction at a state Senate Democrats fundraiser. Republicans control both houses of the state legislature.

One of the most popular governors in the country, Bullock won re-election in 2016 by 4 percentage points in a state Donald Trump carried by 20 points. While he’s known as a moderate, the governor touted his progressive accomplishments in state where the GOP enjoys a large majority in the legislature.

Bullock highlighted his progressive chops while talking to the activists and candidates at the Hampton fundraiser. He noted that “40 percent of my general fund increases went to K-12 because if we’re not getting our public education right, one of our great equalizers, we’re not going to get anything right.”

The governor also spotlighted passing Medicaid expansion, which he said reduced the percentage of those uninsured from 20 percent to 7 percent, and issuing an executive order protecting net neutrality in Montana.

Asked if he supports a Medicare for all single-payer health care plan, which is favored by many Democrats in New Hampshire and across the country, Bullock said “health care ought to be affordable, accessibly and of quality. How we get there, there’s any number of different paths.”

Hampton Democrats chairman Chris Muns, who hosted the Friday fundraiser, said he was intrigued by Bullock, adding “he has a really positive message and seems like a very down to earth guy.”

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