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Montana Voters Split Their Ticket in Tuesday's Balloting

Montana State University

Incumbency, name recognition, and likability appear to be factors in the outcome of yesterday’s general election, says Montana State University political scientist David Parker.

Donald Trump’s strong numbers in Montana did not translate into automatic votes for Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte. Unofficial returns from The Associated Press show Bullock won re-election by a 50-to-47% margin even as Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Montana by a 57-to-35% margin.

So Montana voters split their ticket.

“And I think the Democratic line that look, ‘Steve Bullock is from here. You know him. You’re comfortable with him.’ I think that helped,” Parker said.

He said the attack launched on Gianforte over public access appears to have hurt the Bozeman businessman, even in rural areas.

“At the end of the day there was something that unsettled people about Greg Gianforte,” Parker said. “It could have been that public access thing or it could be they found Steve Bullock more likeable.”

That’s despite Montanans tendency to default to voting Republican. Parker points to the other statewide races - Secretary of State, Auditor, Attorney General and State School Superintendent. He says the other factor is that all of those candidates had the advantage of name recognition for having run statewide races in the recent past.

Parker says while the money Supreme Court candidate Dirk Sandefur had in his race appeared to have helped him win, the same does not appear to be the case for Gianforte, who poured nearly $6 million of his personal fortune into his race.