Red state governor: Democrats will lose midterms if 'just a referendum against Donald Trump'

PHOTO: Montana Governor Steve Bullock speaking after Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a two year moratorium on gold mining exploration on Department of Interior land along northern border of Yellowstone National Park, Nov.21, 2016.PlayWilliam Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images
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Steve Bullock is a rare political animal these days. He’s the Democratic governor of a red state that Trump won by 20 points in 2016. He’s in favor of abortion rights and was the first sitting governor in Montana to officiate a same-sex wedding. And he’s a proud gun owner.

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Bullock told Powerhouse Politics podcast hosts Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein on Wednesday that sometimes he shows up at town meetings where there’s “barely a Democrat in sight.”

“Somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of my voters also voted for Donald Trump. But how I win and how I govern, I don’t think there’s any secret recipe.”

The Montana governor said he shows up and he listens.

“I begin with a basic assumption, that most folks lives are too busy for politics and the partisanship that we see every day. And we really share some values. Everybody wants a safe community, a decent job, a roof over their heads, good public schools, clean air, clean water,” Bullock says. “And I think it's important to be for something, not just against them.”

Bullock says Democrats will mess up the midterms if they make it, “just a referendum against Donald Trump. It’s not enough from my perspective just to be against him. It’s got to be what we are for.”

PHOTO: Montana Governor Steve Bullock campaigning at a democrats gathering in Livingston, Montana on July 2, 2016.William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images
Montana Governor Steve Bullock campaigning at a democrats gathering in Livingston, Montana on July 2, 2016.

Karl questioned Bullock on where he fits on the ideological spectrum, especially in light of the Florida governor’s race where the Democratic nominee, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, rode a wave of liberal support from young voters and African-Americans to a stunning primary victory Tuesday night. Klein followed up, saying, “He [Gillum] is a Bernie Sanders candidate. He wants to legalize marijuana. He wants strict new gun controls. Medicare for all. Abolish ICE.”

Karl asked the governor whether, with his moderate views, he could fit under the Democratic Party tent.

Bullock countered against the idea of putting candidates in “lanes” and said the excitement is what they all have in common. “Look, the way we really got to win is to give voters a reason to go out, and vote for something.”

“We have to make sure that folks can win, and what we also saw is record turnout in yesterday’s primary in Florida. I think folks are tired of nothing getting done, sick of states not getting anything done. There’s a lot of energy out there, and the energy isn’t in either one end of the spectrum of the party. “

After a lightning round of questions on issues, including Bullock’s position on abolishing ICE to Medicare expansion to trade, the hosts asked him the "big question," given Bullock’s multiple trips to Iowa and last week’s stop in New Hampshire.

“Are you going to run for president?” Podcast listeners will hear the answer. Bullock ended the interview with an invitation to Karl and Klein to come to Big Sky Country.

Every Wednesday, ABC Radio brings you the Powerhouse Politics podcast which includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Hosted by ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.

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