MISSOULA – Those watching the heated Montana Senate and US House races are wondering if President Trump’s trip this late in the campaign will draw more to vote for the GOP candidates, and if it’s worth the effort.
It’s uncommon for a sitting president to make so many campaign stops in less-populated states like Montana. And with Trump’s latest announcement of a fourth stop in Bozeman on Saturday, political experts and the media are speculating as to why he’s returning.
University of Montana professor and political analyst Lee Banville says he was surprised to hear the news, but adds the motivation for these visits are different than most.
“Where we’ve seen this, historically, is in really tight campaigns where this district or this senate seat will swing the party from one side to the other,” Banville said. “That’s not what’s really going on here. If Jon Tester loses, sure that’s going to bolster the republican majority in the Senate, but it doesn’t really seem like the Senate majority is at stake in this race.”
And Banville says it isn’t just the president’s presence, but that of his sons and Vice President Mike Pence’s stops that lead him to believe that these rallies are about more than political control.
“It’s hard not to see it as personal,” Banville said. “This isn’t just about maintaining control of the senate. This is about this campaign and it’s clear that the White House has invested a lot of its authority and a lot of its credibility on Matt Rosendale winning. So this is about Jon Tester losing.”
But is it overkill? I guess that depends on who you ask, but from a political perspective, there are still votes to be had.
“There are still a lot of people, somewhere around 30 percent that will vote on Election Day. So although we’ve seen an enormous amount of absentee ballot activity, there are going to be people who haven’t cast those absentee ballots and also folks who will vote on Election Day so there are still voters to talk to,” Banville said.
Regardless of the motivation, Montana is getting an awful lot of attention during this election cycle which is unusual. But Banville says in the Senate Race being as close as it is, both sides are gunning for any advantage they can get.
“I’ve never seen this level of investment in a race where it hasn’t been for control of the legislature,” Banville said. “It really is about these two individual candidates and which one is going to win.”
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Reporting by Don Fisher for MTN News