Gov. Steve Bullock’s first campaign event of his 2020 presidential run was built around his daughter’s schedule.
Caroline, in high school now at the same school he attended as a teenager, had an AP calculus exam that could not be moved. The morning Bullock announced his candidacy, her notes and colorful study guides materials were scattered next to some of the governor’s ceremonial signing papers on the kitchen table in the governor’s mansion.
The tableau looked casual: a dad in his running shorts drinking coffee with the newspaper, Cheerios on the table alongside homemade Mother’s Day cards, and Taylor Swift on in the kitchen.
ABC News was provided access to a morning with the two-term governor that was anything but ordinary.
Just a few hours earlier, Bullock announced himself as the 22nd democratic contender in the 2020 presidential race. So appropriately, Taylor Swift's "22" played in the kitchen as kids studied and dad signed forms declaring himself a candidate. It was momentous for the man who grew up in Helena, in which he still lives; his daughter joked it was “anti-climatic,” but had some insight into the kick-off.
“The whole announcing as the presidential candidates more of a mindset than it is anything,” she said as her father finished signing the firms. “It's a mindset that you want to go out there and change the world. You want to make it so everyone could stop fair shot.”
The governor said the moment was humbling, especially for someone who grew up just blocks from the governor’s mansion where he woke up on the day he declared his entry into the 2020 race.
“it's daunting, but I'm not nervous this morning. I'm excited this morning,” the governor said. “Really excited about being able to share what we have done and what we can do.”
During a short stop on his run through his hometown of Helena, he touched on his positions, some of which forge some separation between himself and his Democratic colleagues running for the White House. Starting with where he’s from.
“Some people call this the flyover part of the country,” he said overlooking the hills surrounding the city. “The flyover states sort of don't feel like the Democratic Party even connects with them.”
Asked about the hot-button topic of Medicare for all in Montana, he said there are other paths to increasing access to health care.
"There are ways to get there without Medicare for all," he said overlooking his hometown. "About 165 million people right now have private insurance. Many of them certainly think it costs too much. But displacing all of them to get that other 25 million covered. Probably there's a note and other paths to do it."
The also lamented the conditions in his home state's Glacier National Park, where he said: "you can literally see the glaciers disappeared."
But what about gun rights for a candidate who has a varied record on the issue? Three years ago, as governor, Bullock rejected universal background checks and declared, “our Second Amendment rights have been expanded in Montana.”
The gun owners tone has changed; as marked in an op-ed he wrote in The Great Falls Tribune last year.
He now supports universal background checks, limiting the size of magazines and has flipped on the issue of certain semi-automatic weapons. He rejected an anti-semi-automatic weapons bill in 2009.
"Both gun owners and those who don't, fundamentally believe universal background checks are something that we ought to be able to do," Bullock, a gun owner, said at his launch event later that day in Helena. "I would push universal background checks, I would push, making it so that you can no longer purchase assault weapons."
Bullock has a large field of contenders to compete with and, having a shorter amount of time to accumulate the donor threshold, acknowledges the challenge of qualifying for the first debate.
He wrapped his public schedule of his launch day with a surprise stop at a brewery in downtown Helena, the capital of a state that voted handily for Donald Trump in 2016 while sending the democrat to the Governor's Mansion.
Bullock will soon be traveling to Iowa where he plans to spend a great deal of time talking to voters and rallying support.