The Montana Senate race presents a key pickup opportunity for Republicans next year, according to a GOP polling memo published Monday.
The memo, written by a Montana-based group called The Political Company, revealed that about a third (34 percent) of the 534 likely voters polled wanted to see Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) win reelection.
Twenty-eight percent said they would vote to replace Tester regardless of who his opponent is, another 28 percent said they would consider another candidate, and nine percent said they do not know how they feel about voting for Tester at this stage.
The memo is one of the first glimpses of a race that Republicans, especially fellow Montanan and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chair Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), have their sights set on flipping.
The NRSC in January highlighted Tester, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in three separate campaign ads, noting President Joe Biden handily lost those states in 2020. Daines said in a statement upon the release of the ads that the trio of vulnerable Democrats should “retire or face a brutal two years in which they will be held accountable for backing Biden’s disastrous agenda.”
Tester, who is in his third Senate term after narrowly winning his last three races, has not indicated if he plans to run for reelection again in what is expected to be a difficult campaign battle after Republicans have seen success across the board in the Big Sky Country in recent years.
The polling memo laid out three prospective challengers, Reps. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) and Matt Rosendale (R-MT), who both won their congressional races in 2022, as well as Gov. Greg Gianforte (R).
Scoop: A poll conducted by the Political Company, a Montana GOP firm, tested 3 matchups of potential #MTSen matchups (Jan. 30-Feb. 1; 534 LVs; +/-4%)
Sen. Jon Tester (D) 46
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R) 40
Rep. Matt Rosendale (R) 40
Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) 45
— Matt Holt (@mattholt33) February 13, 2023
In hypothetical rematches against Tester, Gianforte tied the Montana Democrat 45 percent to 45 percent, while Rosendale and Zinke came five and six points away from beating Tester, respectively.
While no Republicans have launched campaigns against Tester yet, Rosendale, a member of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, challenged him in 2018 and lost by a thin margin of about three and a half points.
Zinke recently told Breitbart News he had not made a decision on running for Senate because he was focused on serving in his current role in Montana’s First District, a new seat for Montana following the 2020 redistricting process.
Zinke, a former longtime Navy SEAL, said, “I’m going to do my job … and then after this year I’ll look up and look at the field and see where I can do my duty.”
The poll was conducted from January 30 to February 1 and had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
Write to Ashley Oliver at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @asholiver.
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