But the environment has changed since Trump’s presidential win last fall. One senior Republican strategist warned that, based on the party’s performance in special elections so far, if Republicans “cannot come up with better candidates and better campaigns, this cycle is going to be even worse than anybody ever thought it could be.”
“The fact that we’re talking about Montana — a super red seat — is amazing,” said John Lapp, who led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2006 cycle. “It’s also amazing how much money Republicans have to pour into these seats to defend them. It’s still a steep climb in Montana, but we know that the reaction there means that there’s a tremendous amount of Democratic energy across the country, a tremendous amount of fundraising that will then feed into races that are much fairer fights.”
Democrats hope the passage of House Republicans’ health care bill just three weeks before the election will put the wind at Quist’s back. It has been the subject of Quist’s closing TV ads, and he has called the plan “devastating” to Montana.