This immense, sparsely populated state appears to be a Republican’s dream. The state’s overwhelmingly White population and rural character — its largest city, Billings, has barely more than 100,000 people — usually indicates a strong red tilt. But appearances can deceive. The state has elected only three Republican senators since World War I and hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 2000. Montanans regularly split their tickets, and they did so again in 2018 by reelecting Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, even as exit polls showed a majority of voters approved of President Trump’s job performance.
Daines and his Democratic opponent, two-term Gov. Steve Bullock, are both political heavyweights. Both men grew up in Montana and returned from short stints out of state to raise their families in their hometowns, and both have been involved in politics since their youth. Both know the state inside and out, and both know the other is a smart, capable foe.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.