Democrats have so far failed to convert liberal anxiety over their presidential-election loss and their desire to regain political power into an outright win in any of the special elections to replace Republican lawmakers tapped to serve in the Trump administration. The party has a chance to change that in an upcoming House election in Montana. But while Democrats want to capitalize on the president’s low national approval ratings to win back seats, it’s not clear the party has found a winning formula yet to compete in rural parts of the country where Trump is more popular.
Montana is the kind of state where Democrats may need to make inroads if the party wants to expand its reach across the country, and convince voters who believe Democrats are out of touch that they are not a party of coastal elites. Trump won the state by double digits in November, and both candidates in the special election to replace Republican Ryan Zinke, who left Congress to become interior secretary, are making a populist pitch. Democrat Rob Quist reminds voters that the House of Representatives should not be a “millionaires’ club.” Republican Greg Gianforte has promised, like Trump, to “drain the swamp.”
Despite recent polling that shows Gianforte in the lead, national Democrats have invested in the May 25 race for Montana’s only House seat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House, has spent roughly $600,000 to help fund pro-Quist TV advertising and voter-turnout efforts. The Democratic National Committee plans to deploy staffers to the state, help fundraise and recruit volunteers for the campaign, and spend five figures on a digital-advertising play to get out the vote.