Montana Senate Race 2020: Democrat has momentum

By Leroy Cleveland, Polls and Trends - October 12, 2020

A Republican incumbent U.S. senator should win re-election in Montana fairly easily, right?

Not so fast. This is 2020, his opponent isn’t just any Democrat, and a Blue Wave is expected to hit Congress’ upper chamber when Election Day arrives.

A New York Times/Siena College poll of Montana, taken September 14-16, shows Montana’s popular, two-term Democratic Governor Steve Bullock just a point behind his GOP foe, freshman Senator Steve Daines.

Daines – 45%
Bullock – 44%
Fredrickson – 4%

Major Caveat (Fredrickson)

The poll was taken with Green Party candidate Wendie Fredrickson, who won’t be on the ticket, as an option.

And her four percentage points may loom large if the race is as close as many believe.

Rest-assured, with her name off the ballot, she won’t receive anywhere near four percent as a write-in candidate.

And no, we can’t assume supporters of the Green Party candidate will overwhelmingly back Gov Bullock, the Democrat. According to The New York Times, those favoring the third party candidate are moreso dissatisfied with the mainstream candidates than politically liberal. That stated, we can still assume those voters won’t overly lean towards Daines, the Republican.

Although President Donald Trump carried Montana by almost 20 points in 2016 and GOP presidential candidates have won easily there since 1996, Montanan Democrats vying for other offices are still quite popular. Not only is Steve Bullock, their current governor, a Democrat, the state’s senior US senate seat is occupied by Jon Tester – a Democrat who was re-elected just two years ago and has held that seat since 2007.

“This is certainly the toughest electoral fight Daines has faced,” David Parker, chair of the political science department at Montana State University, said in an interview via Court House News Service.

“I’d say that voters likely didn’t have a clear idea about Daines before he started advertising in March. In part because until this year, his legislative accomplishments have been thin, and he really hasn’t gone about the state doing town hall meetings.”

The Favorite vs the Momentum

Daines, at least as of October 4, should still be considered the slight favorite. According to polls from fivethirtyeight, he has a one-point advantage, while Real Clear Politics has the race as a tossup. He’s also a Republican incumbent running for re-election in a fairly conservative state. And Since World War II, Montana’s incumbent senators have averaged about an 85% reelection rate

Bullock, however, seems to have the momentum as his numbers continue to improve as we draw closer to the election. Moreover, as governor, he’s received high ratings from his state for his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic and has been in the news lately a lot more than Daines.

And lastly, according to the latest Montana polls, Trump, despite winning big there in 2016, is only 5 – 7 points ahead of Democratic nominee Joe Biden; The president’s apparent sizable drop in popularity in Montana is certainly to Bullock’s advantage.

Daines vs Bullock appears to be close and will likely be determined by 1) Voters not impressed with either candidate, and 2) any subsequent sway in the president’s popularity that may ultimately impact Montanans’ views of the Republican incumbent.

Will Democrats flip this seat? They must win a net of four in November to regain control of the Senate.

Tags: Dianes vs Bullock, Election 2020, Montana Senate Race 2020, U.S. Senate Races 2020