The Corner

Elections

Battleground Montana?

Montana governor Steve Bullock speaks on the first night of the second Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, Mich., July 30, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Last month, the Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling showed the Montana Senate race dead even, with freshman Republican senator Steve Daines and incumbent Democratic governor Steve Bullock tied at 47 percent

Now, an online poll conducted April 10 to 27 by Montana State University shows Bullock leading Daines 46 percent to 39 percent. The MSU poll finds a lot more “undecided” voters than the PPP poll, and the MSU survey has come under a fair amount of scrutiny for its methodology. Nate Cohn of the New York Times’s UpShot “urge[s] some caution” of a lot of the online state polling coming out and notes that conducting an online poll “could be quite a challenge in a small, rural state” such as Montana.

The bottom line: It’s probably best to wait for some better polling of Montana, but no one should sleep on the race. All you need to do is look at recent electoral history to know it could be competitive. 

While Donald Trump won Montana by 20 points in 2016, Democratic governor Bullock won reelection at the same time by 4 points. While Mitt Romney won Montana by 14 points in 2012, Democratic freshman senator Jon Tester won reelection that year by four points. 

Ticket-splitting may be an increasingly rare phenomenon, but it is common enough in Montana that the Senate race could be a real fight even if the presidential race isn’t close.

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