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HomePoliticsMontana PoliticsTop Analyst: Montana U.S. Senate race rated a "toss-up”

Top Analyst: Montana U.S. Senate race rated a “toss-up”

HELENA — With just over a month until Montana’s 2024 election filing period commences, the highly anticipated U.S. Senate race is gradually taking form. The Cook Political Report, a prominent national political forecaster, recently adjusted its assessment of the race from “Lean Democrat” to “Toss Up.”

Initially, the Cook Report’s rating was influenced by the potential for a divisive Republican primary, which could result in a less formidable candidate challenging incumbent Senator Tester. The prospect of a heated primary battle between businessman and Navy Seal veteran Tim Sheehy and U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, if he enters the race as anticipated, played a pivotal role in this evaluation.

Despite the speculation, Sheehy has emerged as a top contender, garnering support from key state Republican figures such as Governor Greg Gianforte and Senator Steve Daines, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The report acknowledged Sheehy’s strength, citing endorsements and a substantial advertising campaign that appears to have resonated with voters, as indicated by recent public polling data.

This reevaluation occurred notwithstanding Senator Tester maintaining robust approval ratings in Montana. The Cook article recognized Tester’s ability to outperform Democratic presidential candidates in the state but noted the challenging national political landscape.

Tester, one of only five senators from the opposite party of their state’s winning presidential candidate in 2020, faces a formidable challenge. The campaign acknowledges the tough road ahead, emphasizing Tester’s purported support across political affiliations and his commitment to representing Montana’s interests. Data shows Tester votes with the Biden Administration 91% of the time.

Sheehy’s campaign seized on the Cook “Toss Up” designation and recent poll results to emphasize his candidacy’s strength. They highlighted Montanans’ desire for a political outsider with a fresh approach to conservative leadership.

While Rosendale has not officially declared his Senate candidacy, his spokesperson characterized Sheehy as a candidate aligned with Washington insiders. Recent campaign finance reports show Rosendale only raised approximately $905,000 during 2023.

Former Montana Secretary of State and Public Service Commissioner Brad Johnson is also in the running for the Republican nomination. Montana’s candidate filing period begins on January 11 and concludes on March 11.

By: Montana Newsroom staff

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