2018 Election Spotlight: Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

2018 is going to be an interesting year for politics in America. People want to know if President Trump will be successful in adding more like-minded Republicans to Congress who share his views. Gaining more Republican seats will allow the president to pursue his agenda, especially in the Senate where Republicans hold a majority by the slimmest possible margin: 51-49. This week, one of Quibbl’s elections writers, Jason Mares, provides a glimpse into a Democratic incumbent senator’s bid for reelection in a part of the country where Trump won by a healthy margin. 

By Jason Mares

Democrats are expected to have a strong showing in the 2018 midterms and are poised to retake the U.S. House of Representatives. On the other hand, they are in a particularly vulnerable position as they must defend 26 Senate seats, 10 of which are in states that Trump won in 2016. This month, we will be covering two-term Senator Jon Tester of Montana, he is running for reelection in a state that Trump won by over 20 points in 2016.

As of now, many political pundits have given him a slight edge for reelection. The current national environment is clearly pro-Democrat, which is expected as the party out of the White House has historically had a strong showing during midterms following the presidential election. In addition, Senator Tester will be aided by the fact that incumbents running for reelection typically enjoy the advantage of having well-established name recognition in their state.

But of course, Montana has its own particular history that might give Sen. Tester a run for his money. Although Trump is unpopular, he currently enjoys a positive net approval rating in a state where he trounced Hillary Clinton in 2016. Montana, a state with a population of only about 1 million constituents, has only one state-wide representative, Greg Gianforte, and Senator Steve Daines; both of whom are Republicans. Moreover, Republicans enjoy majorities in both chambers of Montana’s state government. Yet, Democrats are still prominent in the state despite its strong support for Republican presidential candidates in the past decade. While Trump won the state by a high margin, that same year Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, actually won re-election by a slim margin of 4%. In fact, the Democrats also won the lieutenant governorship that year as well.

Last time Sen. Tester was on the ballot in 2012, he won by a slim, but comfortable, margin of 4%. Yet, he has a strong personal brand within the state will be of major assistance for reelection. Like many Democrats in the state, their brand differs from that of the national Democratic Party. Like many Montana Democrats, Sen. Tester supports gun rights and was for — not against, like many national Democrats — the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal.

Regardless of who the Republican challenger is, Sen. Tester will receive notable criticism for his voting record which can be reflected as not being supportive enough of the president. Last year, he voted against the tax cut bill and the confirmation of now Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch. Recently, he voted against passing the stopgap bill in February, which temporarily shut down the government. As a result, he may be linked to supporting DACA although he explained that his vote was a protest against the current state of Washington.

Overall, Montana has been shifting red recently, and Sen. Tester probably understands his reelection won’t be a walk in the park. Nonetheless, he is the current favorite to win this November.

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