Republicans Becoming More Worried About Montana Congressional Race

Rob Quist / Getty
May 24, 2017

Republicans are growing increasingly concerned about the upcoming special election in Montana, a race the GOP is still favored to win but has become a battleground in recent weeks.

The race between Republican Greg Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist for Montana's lone House seat has narrowed, with recent polls showing a single-digit lead for Gianforte, Politico reported Wednesday.

The congressional seat, which Ryan Zinke vacated to become interior secretary, has been reliably Republican in the past–so much so that President Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the state by 20 points. But Republicans and Democrats alike believe this election could be different.

The chairman of the Montana Democratic Party, Jim Larson, said many people have shifted their opinions about the election.

"I remember talking to people when it first started who said this was a slam dunk, Gianforte's it. And it's not there anymore," Larson told Politico. "It is a lot closer than people ever thought it would be."

One national Republican strategist echoed that sentiment.

"Gianforte has an edge, but it's not going to be a slam dunk," the strategist said.

Gianforte, who rarely discussed Trump when he unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2016, has presented himself during the current campaign as someone eager to work with the president.

The Republican told supporters on Tuesday that he is eager "to work with Donald Trump to drain the swamp and make America great again," referencing two of the president's campaign slogans.

But some are questioning whether Trump's decreasing popularity amid the ongoing investigation into links between his campaign and Russian officials could affect the election.

In a recent story about Gianforte's campaign strategy, the New York Times wrote, "And voting day, which is May 25, will be watched nationally for any signs that Mr. Trump, his tactics, or his style of politics are wearing thin with voters who overwhelmingly supported him in November."