Republican congressman Steven D. Daines holds a slight lead over Democrat Sen. John E. Walsh in the Human Events/Gravis poll taken July 20-22 of 741 registered Montana voters.
“Our poll has Daines leading Walsh 45 percent to 41 percent,” said Doug Kaplan, the president of Gravis Marketing, the Florida-based firm that conducted the poll. The poll carries a margin of error of 4 percent.
Libertarian Roger Roots, an attorney and activist in the area of jury reform, is polling at 6 percent, he said.
Asked for a presidential preference, former Florida governor John E. “Jeb” Bush has a healthy lead over former New York senator Hillary R. Clinton, 49 percent for Bush and 39 percent for Clinton, Kaplan said.
The Senate race was already interesting before The New York Times posted a July 23 article detailing how Walsh, a retired Montana Army National Guard colonel, seems to have plagiarized his master’s thesis paper at the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
Walsh, a combat veteran of Iraq, served as the state’s adjutant general, the most senior officer, was elected Montana’s lieutenant governor in 2012. But, as the realities of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its jacked-up implementation broke through the media blockade, one of its chief architect’s then-Democratic senator Max S. Baucus looked vulnerable.
Baucus was the key nexus between the White House and Capitol Hill as some of his key staffers went to work for President Barack Obama. In those crazy days of the healthcare reform debate, it turned out that the Baucus bill that passed the Senate would have to be the final version—because with the election of former Massachusetts GOP senator Scott P. Brown, the Democrats no longer could block a filibuster of the new bill produced by a conference of the House and Senate to reconcile differences.
As both the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the holder of a safe seat, Baucus was one of the Democrats other Democrats relied upon because he could raise money he did not need and then distribute it to comrades who did.
Before the Obamacare debacle, Baucus was so safe, he could have an affair with a staffer in 2009, nominate her to be Montana’s U.S. Attorney, and after the scandal broke, marry the mistress without fear.
However, when it looked like Baucus was in trouble himself, rather than throw him a lifeline, the party leadership cut him loose.
Walsh was tapped and Baucus and his new bride now live in Beijing, where the former senator serves as our ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.
Walsh’s military service and conservative demeanor match the personality of Montana voters. Earlier in the year, Walsh was considered a long shot, but as the retired colonel separated himself from the president, he was closing in on Daines.
The general election is still three months away, but if Walsh had a real chance to beat Daines, the Democrat’s national leadership would have a reason to pour money in to save the seat. If the plagiarism story has legs—and the War College just announced its own investigation—Democrats will be better off sending the money elsewhere. The plagiarism story broke just as those decisions are being made.
Kaplan said that in race to succeed Daines in Congress, Republican Ryan Zinke leads Democrat John Lewis, a former senior staffer for Baucus, 47 percent to 35 percent, with Libertarian Michael Fellows polling 6 percent.
In the race for governor, Republican state Attorney General Timothy C. Fox holds a slight lead over Democrat Gov. Steve Bullock, 46 percent to 43 percent, he said.