US Senate: Comparing 2014 to 2006 in Montana

Aaron Flint posted on June 09, 2014 12:26 :: 1155 Views

Some are making the case that the heavy turnout in the Republican primary in Montana doesn’t necessarily mean the GOP will have a blowout victory come November, even as the Montana Democratic Party’s own candidate for US House acknowledges an “uphill climb.”    

However, even liberal columnist Dave Weigel with is comparing 2014 to 2006.  This, as US Senate candidate Steve Daines (R-MT) is out with a tough new ad against appointed Sen. John Walsh (D-MT).  

Speaking of the US Senate race, here’s what Nate Silver, the former New York Times numbers guy, has to say at  (h/t Bob Brigham, Dem political consultant)

Montana is one state where statistical models and qualitative forecasters disagree. Whereas groups like Cook Political Report characterize the race as merely leaning toward the Republican, Rep. Steve Daines, the polling-driven models have him as almost certain to win.

The case for the Democrat, the appointed incumbent Sen. John Walsh, would rely on citing Montana’s recent political history (Democrats have performed well and closed well in non-presidential races there) and Walsh’s political pedigree (he is Montana’s former lieutenant governor). It seems like a stretch to us (and may result partly from the erroneous assumption that all incumbents are equal, when in fact appointed incumbents like Walsh run far worse than elected ones do). In any event, Walsh will need to make up a lot of ground in the polling. We have Walsh’s chances at 15 percent for now, down from 20 percent in March. He and Daines just won their primaries, and if Walsh doesn’t see some improvement in his polling soon, Democrats may need to write the race off.

As Nate Silver attempts to give us a look at the future, Dave Weigel gives us a look at the past for Slate.comNo Congress for Old Men; And other lessons from the 2014 primary season 

For all sorts of structural reasons, the left struggles to drive the Democrats’ agenda the way that the right owns the Republicans’ strategy. After Montana Sen. Max Baucus resigned for a diplomatic post in Beijing, and Sen. John Walsh was appointed to replace him, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer insisted that a primary between Walsh and progressive Republican-turned-Democrat John Bohlinger was “too close to call.” It was not. Walsh won by at least 41 points. The left is unlikely to upset an incumbent or “establishment” pick this year—see also New Jersey’s first congressional district, where party machine candidate Donald Norcross easily won a primary.

But look north to Montana. Sen. Walsh had a more competitive primary than Rep. Steve Daines had for the Republican nod, but the ballots cast: 75,005 for Democrats, 132,224 for Republicans. Compare that to 2006, the year Jon Tester won a competitive Democratic Senate primary that brought out 108,198 voters. Only 97,473 Republicans went to the polls to renominate Sen. Conrad Burns.

While the race was certainly tight early on, Walsh was forced to spend a lot of money during the final month in order to come out of the primary with a decent showing.  Additionally. I would argue that the Walsh abortion ad featuring the Planned Parenthood activist had less to do with attacking Daines than it did about rallying Democratic primary voters to his side.  (Not to mention all of the copy and paste press releases that have magically appeared in the state newspapers ever since his appointment to fill the US Senate seat was orchestrated)  

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