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Steve Daines Dashes Liberal Hopes in Montana

Sen. Steve Daines / Getty Images
• November 4, 2020 1:54 am

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Sen. Steve Daines (R., Mont.) defeated top Democratic recruit Steve Bullock in a race national Democrats hoped would help deliver the Senate majority in 2020.

Daines led Bullock by nearly 7 points when the Associated Press called the race early Wednesday morning.

Bullock—who called running for Senate "an absolute no" in 2019—launched his campaign just hours before the state's March filing deadline after meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and former president Barack Obama. His entrance in the race boosted liberal hopes of flipping the seat, as Bullock led a successful gubernatorial reelection bid in 2016, even as President Donald Trump won Montana by more than 20 points.

Daines painted Bullock as too liberal for the state following the Democrat's failed presidential campaign. Bullock in 2018 declared his support for an array of gun-control measures, earning him an "F" rating from the National Rifle Association. Daines highlighted the rating throughout the race, prompting an unsuccessful ad campaign from Schumer and an astroturf hunting group designed to defend Bullock on guns.

Bullock also scrambled to defend his record with women following reports that he paid female staffers less than men and threatened female state employees during his tenure as governor. The Democrat attempted to defend his record in the closing days of the race. He released an ad in which four of his taxpayer-funded female employees railed against "secret money groups" for criticizing "the way Steve Bullock ran his office."

Bullock's loss comes despite a strong fundraising advantage—the Democrat raised roughly $43 million in the race, compared with Daines's $27 million.