Has a Political Dirty Trick Just Cost Jon Tester the Montana Senate Race?

FILE – In this July 5, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump looks to GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, giving him the thumbs-up during a rally at the Four Seasons Arena at Montana ExpoPark, in Great Falls, Mont. Montana State Auditor Rosendale has made his support for Trump a centerpiece of his campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)



Over the past few weeks, Republican Matt Rosendale, who is trying to retire Democrat Jon Tester next Tuesday, has been the target of an illegal mail campaign seeking to drive GOP voters to the Libertarian in the race. The mailers, which don’t bear any of the required FEC markings, and accuse Rosendale of things that Tester would fully support doing:

These mailers seem similar to others that have appeared in other close races in recent years.


The push to get Republicans to vote Libertarian is a real threat in Montana. There is a relatively strong Libertarian strain in Montana GOP politics and the Libertarian candidate is polling around 4% of the vote, which, if you credit the RCP average, is what Tester’s poll lead is.

Just a short while ago, the Libertarian candidate, Rick Breckinridge, packed it in. And in leaving the race he endorsed Matt Rosendale.


More than that, Breckinridge is calling out the illegal campaign mailer as the reason:

The Libertarian candidate in Montana’s U.S. Senate race has thrown his support behind Republican Matt Rosendale in response to an election mailer from an unknown group that appears aimed at undermining Rosendale’s support among conservatives.

Rick Breckenridge said Wednesday that he doesn’t know the source of the mailer promoting him as a “true conservative” and claiming Rosendale supports using drones to spy on private citizens.

Breckenridge says it’s an attempt by so-called dark money groups to influence Montana’s election and he’s decided that Rosendale is the best candidate to stop such efforts.

Is this a game changer? It’s hard to tell. The polling from Montana is squishy, to say the least. Trump won the state by 20 and at least one poll has shown Tester up by 9. Given that Tester’s two previous wins have been 0.9 points and 3.6 points that seems damned unlikely. And Tester’s campaign organization has been a barking shambles:



In 2012, the Libertarian polled 7% of the vote, if that reservoir of votes still exists…and is amenable to taking instructions…then this is a major get for Rosendale and it could be fatal to Tester who, I think, is much weaker than the polls show.

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