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 »
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
TRUMP SAYS HE WILL SIGN
House Passes Funding Deal
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"The House passed a massive border and budget bill that would avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through the end of September. The Senate passed the measure earlier Thursday. The bill provides $1.375 billion for fences, far short of the $5.7 billion President Trump had demanded to fund steel walls. But the president says he will sign the legislation, and instead seek to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency."

Source:
×
×

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