Republican Poll Shows Tight Race for Montana Senate

Challenger Rosendale leads Tester by 2 points, within the margin of error

Montana Auditor Matt Rosendale, here during an interview in the state Capitol last week, had a narrow lead in a recent Republican survey of the Senate race. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republican Matt Rosendale led Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester by 2 points, within the margin of error, in a Republican poll of the race conducted this month. 

Rosendale, the Montana auditor, was ahead, 47 percent to 45 percent, in the survey conducted by WPA Intelligence for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Five percent were undecided. Rosendale won the GOP nomination in June to take on Tester, who’s running for his third term. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilts Democratic

WPAi also tested the favorability of both candidates. Forty-four percent of likely voters had a favorable impression of Rosendale, while 46 percent had an unfavorable view of him. Forty-nine percent had a favorable view of Tester, while 46 had an unfavorable view of him.

The poll surveyed 600 likely voters from Aug. 20-22, with nearly 40 percent over cell phones. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. 

President Donald Trump carried Montana by 20 points in 2016, and the WPAi survey found 54 percent of respondents approved of the job he is doing, while 44 disapproved. 

Rosendale’s two most recent ads only feature footage of Trump speaking at a rally in the state earlier this year. The candidate never speaks, except to approve the message at the end. 

The NRSC’s independent expenditure arm launched its first TV ad in the state in mid-August. It compared Tester to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on a range of issues. 

A subsequent TV ad, released on Aug. 24, zeroes in on immigration and national security. WPAi’s survey showed that 24 percent of likely voters — the largest share — identified illegal immigration as “the single most important issue they would like to see a candidate for the U.S. Senate address.” The next largest share (16 percent) pointed to health care, followed by the economy (11 percent).   

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