Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Can John Lewis Break Democrats’ Losing Streak in Montana?

While Democrats have controlled both Montana Senate seats since Jon Tester’s initial victory in 2006, and the party has had no trouble winning the governorship, the state’s at-large House district has been much more elusive. John Lewis hopes to break the streak.

No, it’s not that John Lewis you’re thinking of.

This one is a 35-year-old Democrat who spent a dozen years working for Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. Baucus is retiring next year and the state’s lone House representative, Republican Steve Daines, is expected to run to succeed him. Meanwhile, Lewis is the lone Democrat in the race to replace Daines. His journey won’t be easy.

Democrats haven’t won a House race in Montana since 1994 when incumbent Rep. Pat Williams won re-election with 48.7 percent. The seat has been open three times in the past two decades (1996, 2000 and 2012). Republicans won each of those contests but with 52 percent twice and 53 percent last year.

Since Daines hasn’t officially announced his intentions, the Republican field is still developing. But state Sen. Matt Rosendale, state Rep. Champ Edmunds and former state Sen. Corey Stapleton are expected to run.

Recent history is working against Lewis. But he should have no trouble raising money and putting together a quality field operation from his connections to former Baucus aides, including Jim Messina. Lewis should be taken seriously.

Montana’s at-large district is now rated Republican Favored (from Safe Republican) according to Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

  • TacAirlifter

    Interesting breakdown there. I wonder how Montanas feel about a Max Baucus aide-turned-representative?

    • Rob_Chapman

      There appears to be little evidence that Montana voters will approach the candidates with a close-minded attitude.

      The prospect of the voters paying careful attention to the upcoming campaigns and deciding who to vote for based on what they hear and see from the respective candidates is the most likely scenario.

      Rothenblog might be the ones looking at this race with unsubstantiated preconceptions.

      • mabramso

        Actually, Rothenberg is rarely wrong in his predictions. But his predictions do and will change between now and Nov 2014, when we know more about the shape of the race and political landscape.

        • Rob_Chapman

          A full throated endorsement for Rothenblog, of course his predictions offered on the second Wednesday of November are invariably correct.

          Live and be well.

          • mabramso

            I have followed Cook, Rothenberg, and Sabato for years. They occasionally miss a House race or two, but when they do miss, they are races that no one saw coming. Other than that, their final predictions don’t miss. Of course, part of their success is that, except for Sabato, they don’t guess the toss-up races. They simply label them as toss-ups, and then they don’t lose.

  • Rob_Chapman

    Previously, Dan Rehberg won six state wide elections as a representative and then was defeated when he ran as a Senator, against Jon Tester who had never sought state-wide offfice.

    What this implies is that campaigning and candidates’ ability to put their case effectively before the Montana voters matters more than history or partisanship.

  • ThisIsNot4U2

    I’m not at all surprised. After the Republicans latest debacle…they had better get used to losing a LOT of seats. This is what happens when you let a “splinter group” (like the Tea Party) run the show. NOW! How do like THEM apples???

    • mabramso

      It may seem like that now, but the GOP will actually be gaining seats in the Senate, and will almost surely hold the House. Even the left-wing Nate Silver would agree. Any damage to the GOP will come in the form of seats they should have flipped but didn’t.

      For example, only 1/3 of the Senate seats are up for re-election in 2014, and this is, by far, the reddest cycle of the 3. The GOP’s only vulnerabilities are in KY (McConnell) and the open seat in Georgia. The Democrats could flip them, but it is doubtful because these are red states in an off-cycle election. The Democrats would need massive turnout and a suppressed GOP turnout to do it. Furthermore, the Democrats are defending seats in SD, WV, MT, AR, AK, LA, and NC. Of those 7, the first 6 are in states that Romney won by double digits. And in NC, Hagan is very vulnerable. The GOP is almost a lock to win in SD and WV, and the other 5 are currently toss-ups. The incumbent Democrats in AK and LA might be able to hold the demographics of their states will work against them.

      To flip the House, the Democrats would have to win ALL of the GOP-held tossup races, ALL of those that lean GOP, and a few that are barely competitive, while successfully defending ALL of their own vulnerable seats. Possible? Sure. Probable? No. Not only do the demographics work against them, but so does history. Only twice in US history has the incumbent President’s party even gained ANY seats, and when they have, it has always been less than 10. So the Democrats would have to do something never before accomplished in history.

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