In the midst of all the crises we currently face, today’s Emerson poll out of Montana feels almost like a quaint look at electoral politics. Democrats put a lot of pressure on former governor Steve Bullock to run against incumbent Republican Steve Daines in the Senate race this year, after all but ignoring the popular Democrat in the presidential primary. They hoped to ride Bullock’s substantial cross-aisle appeal to flip the seat in Montana and control in the upper chamber itself.
So far the polling has been thin, but Emerson suggests that the strategy isn’t working:
The US Senate race appears competitive with incumbent Republican Steve Daines leading with 50% support. His Democratic opponent, Governor Steve Bullock. is at 44%. Of the remaining voters, 5% find themselves undecided. Independents are breaking for Bullock, with 53% support.
Kimball points out that “Montana could be a bellwether of sorts to see if Gov. Bullock can buck the trend of 2016 when Trump states went Republican in Senate races while Clinton states went Democratic”.
A six-point margin is outside the poll’s margin of error, although it’s still somewhat close in a normally red state. RCP only has one other poll listed, a PPP poll from four weeks ago that showed Bullock up by two, 46/44. PPP is a Democratic polling shop that’s better known for its quirky and entertaining questions than its predictive value, but so far they’re the only ones playing.
Daines seems to be holding his own despite Donald Trump’s closer-than-expected standing against Joe Biden:
A new Emerson College poll of Montana finds President Donald Trump at 53% and former Vice President Joe Biden at 42% with 5% undecided. When undecided voters were asked who they would choose they broke for Biden nearly 3:1 and tightened the race from an 11 point margin down to 9.
For context, Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Montana by twenty-one points four years ago. An eleven-point lead is worrisome in a state the GOP normally carries by 20+ points in presidential elections. It’s worth noting that PPP had Trump up by nine points as well, though, so even a Democratic pollster sees relatively firm control of the state by the GOP. One has to worry a bit about a ten-point loss of standing in a Republican stronghold, though, and wonder what that means in less-solid states like Arizona, Georgia, and even Texas.
However, the Emerson poll also suggests that Trump isn’t weighing too heavily on Daines, although that could change in the next few weeks as well. If that’s the case, then it might signal that control of the Senate remains within the GOP’s reach in November.