BY MIKE DENNISON
As 10 Democratic presidential candidates took the stage Wednesday night in Atlanta for another debate, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s flagging campaign ran TV ads in Iowa, the state he’s hoping will provide him a boost.
But with less than two months remaining until the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, Bullock remains mired far back in the Democratic pack, barely registering on the latest Iowa poll.
The poll, released earlier this week by the Des Moines Register, the state’s major newspaper, had Bullock registering only an asterisk – meaning at least one out of 500 Democratic caucus-goers had him as their first choice, but that his total was less than 0.5 percent.
Twelve other Democratic presidential hopefuls polled higher than Bullock, including billionaire late entrants Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer.
The leader in the poll was South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with 25 percent of caucus-goers saying he’s their first choice as Democratic presidential nominee. Elizabeth Warren was second at 16 percent, while Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden tied at 15 percent.
The newspaper said it’s not unheard of for low-polling candidates in November in Iowa to have an unexpected surge on caucus night – but that it’s not likely. The Iowa caucus is Feb. 3 and the New Hampshire primary is eight days later, on Feb. 11.
Bullock’s almost non-existent polling numbers mean he hasn’t qualified for a debate since July, and he wasn’t among those on the debate stage Wednesday in Atlanta.
His campaign bought time for a TV ad in Iowa during the debate, in which Bullock said if he’s elected president, he’ll “empower prosecutors” to go after Trump for legal violations while president.
“I approved this message, because no one is above the law,” he said at the end of the 30-second spot.
He also spent time campaigning in Iowa earlier this week and will be back in the state this weekend – his 17th campaign visit to the Hawkeye State.
Bullock has been rolling out some policy proposals and continues to appear on national media outlets, usually pitching himself as a moderate Democrat who can win in swing states that Trump won in 2016.
Yet Bullock’s spiel hasn’t seemed to gain much traction among voters.
He said two weeks ago that if a candidate doesn’t finish among the top five or six people in the early primaries and caucuses, it’s probably time to call it a campaign.
The Iowa poll had at least one mild positive for Bullock: The amount of people who said they “aren’t sure” about who he is has dropped from 79 percent in March, before he entered the race, to 50 percent now, and his favorability rating increased from 10 percent to 24 percent.
But, in the same time period, his unfavorability rating rose from 11 percent to 26 percent.