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Storm of the Century for Democrats in Montana

Joseph Dixon was the last Republican to hold Montana’s seat in Class 2 of the United States Senate. He lost his reelection bid in 1913.  As Alex Roarty noted in  National Journal in August:

the (Democratic) party is in serious danger of losing a seat it has held for more than 100 years and giving Republicans a key boost in their efforts to retake the Senate majority. And Democrats—who are nonetheless considering a host of possible replacements for Walsh—are left to ponder how they squandered a race once leaning in their favor.

Hard as it may be to believe in a state that has a peculiarly purple hue, that isn’t even the worst news from National Journal, placed Montana at the top of the list of U.S. Senate seats, ranked by liklihood of the seat flipping between the parties

1. Montana (Open D, Sen. John Walsh retiring) (Previous ranking: 3)

Montana Democrats are on their third candidate of the cycle at this point (fourth, if you count Brian Schweitzer’s planned-then-canceled bid) after Walsh withdrew following graduate-school plagiarism revelations. That, in a nutshell, shows why the state has been the Democrats worst Senate race of 2014. It’s almost hard to remember that last year, most analysts believed either Sen. Max Baucus or the former Gov. Schweitzer would hold the seat for their party. Now, GOP Rep. Steve Daines is nearly certain to win against Democratic state Rep. Amanda Curtis, which will mark the first time a Republican will hold the seat in more than 100 years.

Over the last week, and with three weeks until election day, disgraced Sen. John Walsh has had his name scrubbed from the list of graduates at the U.S Army War College, former U.S. Navy SEAL and current candidate for House Ryan Zinke has reportedly raised more funds in the last quarter than Democrat John Lewis has raised for his entire campaign, and Republican Senate candidate Steve Daines has been endorsed by the Billings Gazette and the Helena Independent Record.

Then there are the ads.  While this election season has generally been less inundated with political rancor than the last, Democratic candidates in Montana seem to have one main struggle: lacking substantial background of their own, both Lewis and Curtis are left with the unfortunate tactic of pointing fingers at their opponents.  It’s a proven strategy, but generally there has to be something to point out, to point at.  Facing relatively strong Republican opponents, Lewis and Curtis are both left pointing at their opponents, who can then say, “Yes, look at me,” then simply pivot.

Case in point, as noted  in James Conner’s Flathead Memo

Democrat Amanda Curtis’ first television ad (below), a 30-second spot named One of Us, is up and running, on both television and the internet. She comes across as one of the most likable people you’ll ever meet. That’s the good news. The bad news? It’s a soft ad that’s pure identity politics. She’s just another working Jill, she says, which is true. Therefore:

“Working Montanans deserve one of us in the U.S. Senate.”

To do what, exactly? That part of the message is missing.

And you don’t even want to know about the newest ad from John Lewis.

Michael Mattson

Michael Mattson is State Editor for Watchdog Wire - Montana. He is founder and Executive Editor of The Hellroaring Review, an online literary journal that focuses on very short ("flash") fiction, as well as The Hellroaring Report, a news aggregator focused on the Mountain West and Northern Plains. Contact Michael at Montana@WatchdogWire.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Hell_Roaring

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Categories: Commentary, Elections, Must Read, Politics
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