Parties battle for control of Montana's only US House seat

"The eyes of the country are on Montana", Sanders said at the Missoula rally.

When Donald Trump visited to Montana a year ago ahead of the state's Republican presidential primary, technology entrepreneur Greg Gianforte was running on the GOP ticket for governor and made it a point to avoid his party's likely presidential nominee.

It's not as though President Donald Trump isn't a factor; that would be like ignoring the sun during a heat wave.

Pence visited Montana earlier this month to drum up support for Gianforte, and Trump Jr. made a brief swing through the state.

But neither side has sought to make the race an explicit referendum on the president, or the upheaval that has Washington in fits. The Republican National Committee spent $16,939 on Gianforte phone calls May 20-21. "You have to be who you are", he added. A total of 11 Republicans and 8 Democrats will vie for the seat now held by appointed Sen.

"They've got to start winning some of these", said the conservative.

The state has been without a congressman since Ryan Zinke resigned to become secretary of the Interior Department.

Election day is set for Thursday, May 25.

"Every time someone raises money from outside (the) district, that does affect some voters, but not very many", Schneider said. "It turns out that being from New Jersey isn't an asset in Montana". He received $1 million in just five days, his campaign announced this week. "He sued", Quist says in one of his ads, striding through a green field alongside the river, "trying to take our land for himself". But in a state where hunting and fishing are holy rites, the dispute caused grave political harm.

The candidate spent several minutes attacking Gianforte, a tactic his Republican challenger also employed at a May 8 campaign appearance at Glasgow's Farm Equipment Sales on Hwy 2.

One important difference, though, is a less-adept opponent.

But Democrats aren't over the moon with Quist.

"One thing I'd be fearful of is that Quist ran as a progressive and therefore Democrats need Sanders candidates", the Democratic operative said. "But the fact this was going to be a short election cycle", he said, "I thought that would be something I could manage, three months".

He also told MTN News last week that it would "kick off" the 70,000 Montanans covered by expanded Medicaid. He uses his own financial troubles, growing from a botched gall bladder operation and years of health issues, as the argument for expanded coverage.

Still, provisions on the House-passed bill would dramatically alter the landscape of health-care coverage in America.

Campus political groups are supporting their preferred congressional candidates across the country to try to maximize their impact on the political environment. "Repeal of the Affordable Care Act without thoughtfully replacing it would wipe out some of our smaller communities", Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat and a supporter of Mr. Quist, said in an interview.

Both parties acknowledge there's little to be learned about the midterms from this Montana race and are carefully managing expectations.Republicans point to an unusual special election environment that allowed millions of dollars to flow to Quist. On Thursday Mr. Quist's campaign said he had raised $5 million, including more than 200,000 contributions averaging just under $24. Voting has been underway since mid-April, and by Tuesday more than 238,000 ballots - which could be well over half - had already been cast.

  • Archie Newman