If the government shutdown has an adverse impact on Republicans’ efforts at retaking the Senate, one race where the impact would be felt is Montana. Democrats landed an untested but potentially compelling recruit in Lt. Gov. John Walsh, a military veteran and fourth-generation Montanan.
— Montana amounts to a must-win for Republicans, and when former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) passed on the race, many thought the race was in the bag for them. But the state has been inhospitable for GOP Senate candidates lately, with Democrats winning 19 of the last 23 races. And on paper, the likely matchup against Rep. Steve Daines (R) provides some opportunities for Dems.
— Dems plan to portray Daines as a Washington insider responsible for the Washington gridlock. They view Daines, like Rick Berg last year in neighboring North Dakota, as a weaker candidate than his resume indicates. Daines spent most of his career outside politics as a businessman, but the Congressional label is toxic these days.
— Across the board, the GOP underperformed in Montana last year. Mitt Romney won 55% of the vote, but MT GOV nominee Rick Hill (R) ran 8 points behind, and MT SEN nominee, then-Rep. Denny Rehberg, only carried 45%. Even Daines won just 53% for the open seat. This despite running against the president and his unpopular health care law.
In a libertarian state skeptical of government, Republicans should be able to exploit Obama’s weaknesses on the economy, spending and health care. But with the GOP’s image so poor and a spotty track record in Montana, that’s far from a guarantee.
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As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."