MT-AL

Big Spending in Montana Portends a Close Election
Two flawed candidates battle for at-large district Thursday

Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte speaks to supporters during a campaign meet and greet Tuesday in Great Falls, Montana.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Updated 9:48 p.m. | Ahead of Thursday night’s “body-slamming” incident, most bets were on Republican nominee Greg Gianforte, who’s led by single digits in recent public and private polling, winning Montana’s at-large House seat on Thursday.

But that’d still be a dramatic shift from President Donald Trump’s 20-point victory in the state last fall.

Montana Candidate’s Comments Raise Questions About Corporate Money
Gianforte and Quist both claim they refuse industry PAC contributions

Republican Greg Gianforte, left, is running against Democrat Rob Quist in a special election to fill the at-large Montana congressional seat vacated by former Rep. Ryan Zinke, who’s now serving as secretary of the Interior.

Comments made by Montana Republican Greg Gianforte on a national fundraising call last week raise questions about what he meant when he said that industry PACs could contribute to “our Victory Fund.”

Both Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist say they have refused to accept corporate PAC money in the race for Montana’s at-large House seat. But when asked on last week’s call, audio of which was obtained by CQ Roll Call, whether he still did not accept PAC money, Gianforte gave a confusing answer. 

Democratic Poll Gives Gianforte Single-Digit Lead in Montana
Gianforte led Quist by six points in Senate Majority PAC survey

Gianforte, left, led Quist by single digits in a recent Democratic poll.

In the race for Montana’s at-large House seat, Republican Greg Gianforte led Democratic Rob Quist by six points in a poll conducted by a Democratic super PAC late last month. 

Gianforte led Quist 49 to 43 percent. That includes undecided voters pushed for a lean toward one candidate or the other. 

GOP Super PAC Ties Montana's Rob Quist to Nancy Pelosi
Congressional Leadership Fund begins $800,000 media campaign

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As national attention turns to the special election in Montana, the super PAC backed by House GOP leadership is deploying House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a new TV attack on Democratic nominee Rob Quist. 

The ad, which will debut Friday on broadcast and cable, marks the start of an $800,000 media buy from Congressional Leadership Fund. The super PAC ran its first TV ad against Quist last month, using many of the same attacks.  

The Not-So-Special Elections
Of 5 upcoming contests, only Georgia race presents chance of a partisan flip

Karen Handel is hoping to succeed Tom Price in Georgia’s 6th District, but first, she faces an April 18 jungle primary with 17 other candidates. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Money is pouring into the suburbs north of Atlanta, the site of the first competitive congressional election of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Georgia’s 6th District, left vacant by the confirmation of Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary, is one of five special elections taking place across the country this spring, but the only one which offers much of a chance of a partisan flip.

GOP Super PAC Goes on Air Against Montana Democrat
Republicans attack Rob Quist day after he wins Democratic nod

Congressional Leadership Fund is running TV ads against Rob Quist, the Democratic nominee to fill Ryan Zinke’s seat in Montana. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Republican super PAC will begin running TV and digital ads on Monday against Montana’s freshly minted Democratic nominee for the at-large House seat — before the GOP even has a nominee of its own. 

Congressional Leadership Fund, which is endorsed by House GOP leadership, is spending $700,000 on cable and broadcast ads to attack Rob Quist, whom Democrats nominated at a party convention on Sunday for the special election that will take place on May 25.

Zinke Appointment Would Open Up Montana At-Large Seat
Democrat Denise Juneau hasn’t ruled out another run for public office

Democrat Denise Juneau, who lost to Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke last month, says she’d like to stay in Montana but hasn’t closed the door on another run for public office. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke won re-election last month by 16 points, but now that President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly offered him the job of Interior secretary, there’ll likely be another race for the at-large seat. 

Trump won the state with 56 percent of the vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 36 percent, according to the Montana secretary of state’s office. Mitt Romney carried the 87 percent white state by a smaller 13-point margin. 

Ratings Change: 5 House Races Shift Toward Democrats
But Democrats are still waiting for wave required to win majority

The good news for Republicans is that the bottom hasn’t fallen out from underneath their down-ballot candidates. The bad news is that there are still nearly three weeks left before Election Day, and 24 hours in each day for Donald Trump to torpedo the party’s chances of holding the House.

District-level polling after the release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video and the second debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton showed some vulnerability for Republicans, particularly in suburban districts. But we didn’t see a widespread cratering of GOP candidates in the competitive districts or evidence that the number of competitive seats is increasing dramatically.

The Seats Democrats Must Win to Retake House
Minority party must gain 30 seats in November; little to no room for error

Democrats are focusing on more suburban districts, where they believe changing demographics are moving seats into the Democratic column, in their effort to regain the majority in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As Democratic chances of taking back the House improve with the success of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, party strategists are trying to figure out exactly how and where it’s going to happen. It’s not too difficult to see Democrats gaining 10, or even 20, seats in November, but gaining the 30 required for a majority is more difficult and will require Democrats winning a large swath of seats where Republicans are currently heavy favorites.  

Winning the House majority is more than focusing on the presidential margin and allotting House seats to Democrats because of the strength of some GOP incumbents. For example, Democrats are not going to defeat Republican Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo this year, even though President Barack Obama won New Jersey’s 2nd with 54 percent, or win New Jersey’s 3rd (which Obama won with 52 percent), where wealthy GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur could easily outspend any challenger.