Rating Change: Montana Special Creeps Closer to Tossup

Voters to decide Thursday who will replace Interior Secretary Zinke

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won last year’s Democratic presidential primary in Montana, campaigned over the weekend with Democratic House candidate Rob Quist. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The special election for Montana’s at-large House seat hasn’t received as much as attention as the race in Georgia, but it’s a similar storyline: Democrats are doing better than expected and an upset is within the realm of possibility.

Less than a week before the Thursday, May 25, election, wealthy former software executive Greg Gianforte has a narrow advantage over his Democratic opponent, musician Rob Quist. But Quist recently crossed the $5 million fundraising threshold, giving him ample resources to deliver his message in the final days in a relatively cheap state for advertising. 

Strategists on both sides of the aisle agree that Gianforte won’t come close to President Donald Trump’s 20-point victory last fall. But there is some disagreement on exactly how far ahead Gianforte is at this point. 

[The Big Story: Special Elections in the Time of Trump]

There isn’t enough evidence that the candidates are neck-and-neck to justify a Tossup rating, but there is enough uncertainty with special election turnout, and with previous special election races as a backdrop, for us to change our Inside Elections rating of the Montana race from Likely Republican to Tilts Republican

In April, Republican Ron Estes won a Kansas special election by 7 points in the 4th District, which Trump carried by 27 points last fall. 

You can read about more ratings changes and analysis on dozens of districts in the new May 19 issue of Inside Elections.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.