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Politicians, by nature, are oddsmakers, calculators, bettors, bookies.

They bet on winning and losing all the time.

Sen. Steve Daines bet on President Trump. But following the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Daines changed his wager.

That day a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol, erected a gallows, killed a Capitol policeman, and searched like terrorists for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.

They tried to stop Congress from doing its constitutional duty to certify the presidential election.

Hidden with senators from the marauders in a Capitol basement “secure room”, Daines made a critical political recalculation.

The senator, who fundraised off emails that said Democrats were “stealing” the election, backed off his statement he would vote with other senators to stop certification in some states.

Daines ultimately did the right thing and voted to certify the electors, but not before he revealed his lack of moral certitude and fulsome political cravenness.


Because of peer pressure (the New York Times reported that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin appealed to Daines in that secure room to abandon the hapless cause to fight certification) and knowing the tide was turning against Trump.

Before making key decisions, Congresspeople weigh asssorted data — hard mail, emails, phone calls, social media, news articles, editorials, polling numbers. They talk to political consultants, trusted friends and advisers, spouses and partners, party leaders and get staff recommendations to add in their political calculus.

Daines, no doubt, was rattled by the mob’s attack and swift and palpable public outrage emanating from Montana. The assault was a shocking attempt against the legislative branch to subvert the Constitution and keep Trump in office.

Watching TV, Americans grew angrier by the minute with Trump’s reckless behavior and refusal to accept responsibility.

Daines earlier had been the target of a newspaper editorial calling his proposed vote against certification “political garbage” and mocking his use of language that ultimately helped to incite insurrectionists.

Calculating that information, Daines, in that basement bunker and later with staff, decided not to swim against the dangerous riptide of public sentiment. He changed his vote.

This reveals that Daines is no statesman and his moral compass points to no magnetic north that is truth, that his allegiance is to himself and political opportunism rather than doing what’s right for Montanans.

Daines hitched his star to Trump and fashioned his political brand around the exotic radicalism of Trumpism to capture the zeitgeist that spread like wildfire across America and in Montana politics.

Daines now says it’s time to lower the “temperature.” But after enabling the tin-pot dictator and perpetuating the lie that Democrats were “stealing” an election, Daines is changing his tune because Trump’s star is fading.

Like Trump, Daines must be held accountable for his lies and dangerous rhetoric.

Montanans should expect Daines to focus not on telling lies and lighting matches that fan the flames of tyranny.

Because bookies, bettors and craven political calculators won’t lead us out of this American darkness.

Trusted leaders will.

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Bill Lombardi is a Helena resident who has worked in journalism and Montana and national politics, including the Montana Senate and U.S. Senate, for four decades.