BOZEMAN, Mont. — Stan Jones, a Montana libertarian widely known for his peculiar blue skin, can arguably be said to have recast the political complexion of the U.S. Senate, turning it from Republican red to the same color as his face.
That face, it should be noted, is not the dark blue of TV graphics that show where the Democratic Party increasingly holds sway. Nor is it the pale blue of the big Montana sky as autumn turns to winter. It is an ashen blue-gray, a flesh tone more suited to the undertaker’s slab than the politician’s stump.
In any case, this is what the 67-year-old candidate accomplished last Tuesday: He won 10,324 votes in the make-or-break Senate race in Montana, a contest that Democrat Jon Tester won by just 2,565 votes over three-term Republican incumbent Conrad Burns.
The blue skin, it should be noted, is the result of a medical condition brought about by a homemade antibiotic Jones took in 1999 to ward off what he feared would happen when the Y2K bug hit. No really, it’s true.
Quirky or not, though, there seems to be little question that Jones pulled off something we’ve seen Ralph Nader and Ross Perot do, have a real impact on an important election.
There are Stan Jones skeptics in Montana who say that the eccentric libertarian may not have swung the election for the Democrats. Craig Wilson, a polling expert at Montana State University in Billings, said Jones was “really invisible” in the campaign and probably hurt Burns no more than Tester.
But another longtime expert on Montana elections, Jerry W. Calvert, a professor of political science at Montana State University in Bozeman, said there is “no question” that Jones took votes from the incumbent. “The rule of thumb in Montana is that libertarians take votes disproportionately from Republicans,” Calvert said.
Given that Jones’s libertarianism has a definite conservative tilt to it (he’s against both abortion and same-sex marriage), this would certainly seem to be the case. The question is whether, Jones’s blue skin notwithstanding, Republicans will draw any lessons from Montana.
On a related note, The Economist asks the question: Did libertarian votes cost the GOP control of Congress ?
H/T: Outside The Beltway
Further thoughts at The Jawa Report