MT-Sen: Cook Political Report Officially Moves The Senate Race From “Lean GOP” To “Toss-Up”

Some very good news today out of Montana courtesy of the Cook Political Report regarding the upcoming U.S. Senate race between incumbent U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R. MT) and current Governor Steve Bullock (D. MT):

After serving for the state's at-large congressman for a term, Daines won this Senate seat in 2014 which was a very good year for the GOP. They flipped control of the Senate, after his initial Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. John Walsh, (who Bullock has appointed to fill the Senate seat after Max Baucus resigned to be Ambassador to China) imploded following plagiarism allegations. His replacement, state Rep. Amanda Curtis, couldn't compete, and Daines won by 18 points.
Bullock, too, has had the benefit of winning his governor's races against weaker opponents than Daines will be, and Republicans counter that the Democrat has never truly been tested. He narrowly won in 2012 against then-Rep. Rick Hill, winning 48.9%-47.3%. Four years later, he won a narrow majority for the first time, beating Greg Gianforte 50.3%-46.4%. Democrats especially believe they have a winning message with him on health care, as he expanded Medicaid in the state after a compromise with moderate Republicans in the legislature.

As is often the case in Montana politics, third party candidates could have an outsized impact on the race. There's already a Green Party candidate on the ballot (a former state auditor who says Bullock created a hostile work environment) which might draw  votes from Bullock. However, Democrats are seeking to get that line off the ballot (they were successful at this in 2018 with Tester's race). Two Libertarian candidates withdrew from the race, but the party, which has an unusually strong presence in the state, could still name a replacement before ballots are printed.

Montana is the toughest state on paper for Democrats when we look solely at the presidential numbers. Still, it's been clear for a while that this race is shaping up to be a unique battle between two well-liked Montanans (who both just happen to be named Steve), making it the most glaringly competitive race we've had in the Lean Republican column for the past few months. Several indicators now merit a more competitive rating, and therefore we are moving this race to Toss Up.

Give the whole analysis a read and then let’s help the Blue Wave hit Montana hard. Click below to donate and get involved with Bullock and his fellow Montana Democrats campaigns:

Steve Bullock

Mike Cooney

Kathleen Williams