AGAINST THE GRAIN

GOP Gets Jitters About Montana Race

Even though national Democrats have barely invested in next Thursday’s red-state House election, it’s a lot closer than anyone expected.

Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte (right) welcomes Donald Trump Jr. at a rally in East Helena, Mont., on May 11.
AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan
May 21, 2017, 6 a.m.

A whop­ping $30 mil­lion has already poured in­to next month’s spe­cial elec­tion in sub­urb­an At­lanta, which both parties view as a bell­weth­er to the 2018 midterms. But next Thursday’s quieter con­gres­sion­al con­test in Montana may provide a bet­ter in­sight in­to the coun­try’s polit­ic­al mood, and it’s shap­ing up to be more com­pet­it­ive than either party ex­pec­ted. Re­pub­lic­ans hold a nar­row ad­vant­age, but are con­cerned that this week’s worsen­ing Trump scan­dals—and the grow­ing un­pop­ular­ity of the GOP’s health care le­gis­la­tion—come at the worst pos­sible time.

The race pits two lackluster can­did­ates in a polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment tail­or-made for a Demo­crat­ic shock­er. Re­pub­lic­an busi­ness­man Greg Gi­an­forte, who lost the gov­ernor race last year, made his wealth in New Jer­sey and lacks deep roots in his ad­op­ted state. Demo­crat­ic mu­si­cian Rob Quist is a true-blue pro­gress­ive with loads of per­son­al bag­gage, and is be­ing slammed over tax and fin­an­cial prob­lems. Re­pub­lic­ans have held a sig­ni­fic­ant fin­an­cial ad­vant­age for the en­tire race, with 71 per­cent of the ad­vert­ising money in the race spent on Gi­an­forte’s be­half. But Quist re­ceived a late in­fu­sion of small dona­tions, swell­ing his war chest to $5 mil­lion.

The latest GOP polling shows Gi­an­forte with a nar­row lead. And for the first time, the pres­id­ent’s ap­prov­al num­bers have dropped un­der­wa­ter in this Trump-friendly state. A Re­pub­lic­an poll con­duc­ted May 14-16 found just 46 per­cent of Montana voters view­ing Pres­id­ent Trump fa­vor­ably, while 47 per­cent viewed him un­fa­vor­ably. This, in a state where Trump won 56 per­cent of the vote, one of his strongest per­form­ances in the coun­try.

Demo­crats have been wary about rais­ing ex­pect­a­tions too high, know­ing their nom­in­ee is ser­i­ously flawed and re­cog­niz­ing the dif­fi­cult demo­graph­ics in this solidly Re­pub­lic­an state. But un­like in the Geor­gia con­test, which is be­ing con­tested in a much more af­flu­ent dis­trict, Demo­crats have been ag­gress­ively tar­get­ing Gi­an­forte over health care. The latest ad from the Demo­crats’ top House su­per PAC por­trays Gi­an­forte as a wealthy, un­car­ing car­pet­bag­ger. “Greg Gi­an­forte: our pain is his gain,” the ad con­cludes. It’s no co­in­cid­ence that Gi­an­forte has hedged on wheth­er he would have voted for the un­pop­u­lar House health care le­gis­la­tion.

Quist is an even worse can­did­ate. His pop­u­list charm is an as­set in a state will­ing to elect work­ing-class Demo­crats, but that’s about all he has go­ing for him. He has a dec­ade-long re­cord of fin­an­cial troubles, with a his­tory of tax li­ens and stiff­ing con­tract­ors. He’s talked about his life-sav­ing gall­blad­der sur­gery as in­dic­at­ive of the im­port­ance of af­ford­able health care, but that opened up scan­dal­ous ques­tions about his health his­tory. (It’s nev­er good when “preex­ist­ing gen­it­al herpes” is brought up by polit­ic­al op­pos­i­tion.) One of his former band mem­bers once sued him for fraud.

Make no mis­take: If Demo­crats win in Montana next Thursday, it would send shock­waves in­to an already-frazzled Re­pub­lic­an Party. Montana is ra­cially ho­mo­gen­ous, cul­tur­ally con­ser­vat­ive, and filled with work­ing-class voters who drif­ted away from the party last year. Wash­ing­ton Demo­crats barely in­ves­ted in the race be­cause Montana isn’t the type of place to make a stand. There are 110 oth­er House Re­pub­lic­ans rep­res­ent­ing dis­tricts less Re­pub­lic­an than this one, ac­cord­ing to the Cook Re­port Par­tis­an Vot­ing In­dex.

The Re­pub­lic­ans’ slim lead is mainly due to early, well-fun­ded ef­forts by the Con­gres­sion­al Lead­er­ship Fund su­per PAC and the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee. But if a not-ready-for-prime-time Demo­crat­ic play­er can pre­vail in Montana, it’s a glar­ing warn­ing that Trump’s prob­lems threaten to weigh Re­pub­lic­ans down al­most every­where in the coun­try.

What We're Following See More »
RARE STATEMENT FROM SPECIAL COUNSEL'S OFFICE
Mueller Denies BuzzFeed Report About Trump Directing Cohen to Lie
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office on Friday denied an explosive report by BuzzFeed News that his investigators had gathered evidence showing President Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow. 'BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,' said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller."

Source:
ABOUT THE BORDER
Trump to Make Announcement Saturday Afternoon
13 hours ago
THE LATEST
MORE PRESSURE ON WHITE HOUSE
NY Fed Chief Says Shutdown Could Cut Growth by 1%
18 hours ago
THE DETAILS
SCHIFF CALLS ALLEGATIONS THE MOST SERIOUS TO DATE
House Intel Will Probe BuzzFeed Report
20 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The top Democrats on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees said they will investigate the allegations that President Donald Trump directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations in 2016 to build a Trump Tower in Moscow are true, as BuzzFeed News reported late Thursday. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the allegations underlying the BuzzFeed report are “among the most serious to date” and indicated he will direct committee investigators to probe them."

Source:
BLAMES TRUMP FOR LEAKING COMMERCIAL AIR TRAVEL PLANS
Pelosi Cancels CODEL
21 hours ago
THE DETAILS
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login