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'Campaign Beat': Primary Post-Mortem

"Campaign Beat" MTPR's weekly political analysis program.
"Campaign Beat" MTPR's weekly political analysis program.

Tonight on "Campaign Beat," a look at Montana’s primary results, the ongoing spat between Gianforte and Bullock over stream access, and the potential "Trump effect" on down-ballot races like Montana's lone seat in the U.S. House.

Moderates vs. conservatives

In key legislative races pitting moderate vs. conservative Republicans, the moderates made a few inroads — not a lot, but enough to maintain their influence at the next legislature.

"They gained two seats in the House, and one in the Senate," says Chuck Johnson. "Those gains are enough to ensure that the moderates will still have a working majority — with the Democrats — the kind of middle-of-the-road group that passed in 2015 Medicaid expansion, the disclose campaign finance bill, ratified the Flathead Water treaty and other things.

"So the conservative Republicans will still be their own minority caucus, although a majority of the Republicans in the legislature."

Gubernatorial race

In the gubernatorial race both Democrat Steve Bullock and Republican Greg Gianforte easily won their respective primaries. Gianforte pulled about 76 percent of the vote, and Republican challenger Terry Nelson, an unknown who didn't really campaign, made a much better showing than anyone expected. What's that all about?

"I think the answer is, it's not entirely clear. But if you're in the Gianforte campaign I think you have to be a little bit confused and a little bit concerned," says Professor Rob Saldin.

"It may be that moderate Republicans perceive Gianforte to be too conservative, which is a point Democrats have be hammering away at for months."

Presidential election

"A piece of conventional wisdom is that the Republican nominee should carry Montana. But I think one of the real things overhanging this campaign — and it's not just at the top of the ticket, but potentially down-ballot — is what effect does Donald Trump have? What happens with the Trump candidacy? Is that something that has the potential to damage down-ballot Republicans? I think that's a big question mark overhanging this election," Saldin says.

"Campaign Beat" will be on break over summer, and will return in September as the elections heat up.

"Campaign Beat" is hosted by MTPR's Sally Mauk, with UM Political Science Professor Rob Saldin, and former Capitol Reporter Chuck Johnson. Listen every Friday at 6:48 p.m. and again on Sunday at 11:00 a.m., or via podcast.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Retired in 2014 but still a presence at MTPR, SallyMaukis a University of Kansas graduate and former wilderness ranger who has reported on everything from the legislature to forest fires. She also taught broadcast writing and reporting in the University of Montana journalism school.