- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana on Wednesday came out against providing government health care to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, breaking with top contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and signaling that he doesn’t plan on pandering to liberal activists on thorny issues that could scare off middle-of-the-road voters.

Mr. Bullock missed the cut for the first presidential debate where several of the candidates said they supported granting government health insurance to immigrants who are in the country illegally, and decriminalizing border crossings.

“No, I would not be giving undocumented immigrants to this country health care right now,” Mr. Bullock said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

While Mr. Bullock said he prefers addressing migrant health care as part of a broader immigration fix, he added that he doesn’t support the push for “Medicare for All” that has energized the left wing of the party.

The governor said he prefers adding a government-run public option, raising concerns about the estimated cost of a $30 trillion to 40 trillion Medicare for All system, as well as the idea of having to strip private health coverage from 165 million Americans in order to transition them into a new system.

“I just don’t think that is where most folks are,” he said. “Great respect for those people that are out there pushing it, but I don’t think that is how we actually build on making sure everybody has access to affordable health care.”

The stance puts him in line with the more moderate voices in the race, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and on the opposite side of the argument from Sens. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala D. Harris of California, who are running on a Medicare for All message.

Mr. Bullock has largely flown under the radar since entering the race later than most of the 2020 presidential contenders, and has focused a lot of his attention on winning over rural voters in Iowa, which kicks off the nomination contest next year with its caucuses.

He has barely registered in polls and has a lot of catching up to do on the fundraising front after receiving $2 million in donations over the first month and a half of his candidacy.

That puts him well behind the 2nd quarter hauls of South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg ($24.9 million), Mr. Biden ($21.9 million), Ms. Warren ($19.1 million), Mr. Sanders ($18 million), and Ms. Harris ($11.7 million).

Looking to raise his profile and drive more voter and donor interest in his candidacy, the 53-year-old has been making the media rounds this week in Washington and New York, where he also has argued against decriminalizing illegal immigration and cast himself a “voice from outside of Washington, D.C.”

During Wednesday’s “Morning Joe” appearance, Mr. Bullock said he has plenty of time to make up ground on his rivals and said he has qualified for the second presidential debate in Detroit.

“I have a lot of excitement out there and folks are coming on because I am the only one that has actually won in a Trump state,” Mr. Bullock said. “We need to win back places that we lost.”

Mr. Bullock has been touting his ability to work with Montana’s GOP-controlled Legislature to get “progressive” things done — including expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, strengthening the state’s education funding, and spending more on roads and bridges.

He also highlights the work he has done to fight against abortion restrictions and to remove “dark money” from politics.

“I don’t just get to give a speech or sponsor a bill that goes nowhere other than a press release,” Mr. Bullock said of his having been a chief executive rather than a legislator, as most of his 2020 Democratic rivals are.

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