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MSU-MTN Poll Shows U.S. Senate Race Is A Toss-Up With Less Than 2 Weeks Before The Election

Incumbent U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-MT, has a slight lead over his Republican challenger Matt Rosendale according to the just released MSU-MTN poll of registered voters. 

The poll found Tester has near universal support from those who identified as Democrats. The farmer from Big Sandy also has a substantial margin of support from self-identified independents.

MTN’s chief political analyst and MSU political scientist David Parker said Tester, however, cannot count on that to cruise to victory November 6th.

“If I were a Democrat, I would not take any cold comfort in this poll,” he said. “Statistically speaking it’s a toss-up.”

Credit Montana Television Network
Screen capture of the U.S. Senate Candidates from the debate sponsored October 13, 2018 by MTN-YPR.

The survey found Tester leads Rosendale 46-to-43% with 6.5% of respondents saying they don’t know.  The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2%.

The poll found among those who said they were undecided, most identified as either Republican or independents. It’s those voters both sides will be trying to win over.

The challenge for Rosendale is to persuade, especially those undecided Republicans, to “come home.”

Parker said it may be that undecided, self-identified Republicans just don’t know much about Rosendale. So, to get their vote, Parker said, it may be a matter of Rosendale reminding them that he’s the one who stands with the President, “that he’ll basically be a vote for Donald Trump on those issues that Montanans disagree with Jon Tester on, particularly on the Supreme Court nomination.”

Rosendale, the current state Auditor, has largely relied on visits by Trump and his surrogates. The president has made 3 Montana visits since Rosendale won Montana’s contested June primary election; the president’s surrogates continue to campaign on his behalf.

Credit Montana State University
MSU political scientist and MTN Chief Political Analyst David Parker

As for Tester, Parker said he continues to enjoy support from young and older voters. He said in order to pull off another victory in November, he’ll have to remind voters why they’ve voted for him in the past.

“I think he needs to remind people that number one that they like him even if they don’t always agree with him and that he works hard,” said Parker. “He has some substantial accomplishments for the state and has legislation passed. These are all his strong suits and he’s effective, even in the minority.”

The survey was mailed to 10,215 randomly, selected registered voters between September 15 and October 6, 2018.  Sampled individuals also received a postage paid envelope to return the survey. Respondents returned 2,079 surveys, a response rate of just over 20%.

Early voting is underway in Montana.  Election day is November 6, 2018.