I don’t normally write about the horse race aspect of politics, preferring to leave that to the press, but I think Montana Democrats should be encouraged by the positive developments coming from the John Lewis campaign.
The latest good news is that national Democrats believe that Lewis can win the race, as evidenced by his selection on the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” list, races where national Democrats believe that we can flip a Republican seat because of “smart campaigns which are becoming increasingly competitive.”
That perception supports the analysis of Stu Rothenburg, who said that Lewis made Montana one of the 12 House seats most likely to flip in 2014.
Democrats might be inclined to believe that this House seat is a Republican one, given the relatively wide margins of victory Republicans have enjoyed in recent years, but statewide success by Democrats, combined with an energetic campaign, give Lewis the best chance to recapture Pat Williams’s seat since Nancy Keenan ran.
We’ve got reason to be optimistic here. We have the opportunity to win back a seat from the extremists who’ve badly represented Montana since I was in college.
There’s another reason to be optimistic about Lewis’s chances: Republicans are likely to elect a candidate who will be badly bloodied in a primary and unlikely to run well in a general election. Where Steve Daines had the luxury of running as a stealth conservative, the candidate who wins the GOP primary this year is going to have to chew on some red meat, often and in public, to win the nomination. The candidate who emerges will not be ably to credibly appeal to Independent Montana voters, who will be crucial to winning the race.
My best guess is that the Republican candidate will be the ethically-challenged Ryan Zinke, whose SuperPAC money will prove more valuable than all the loans Stapleton, Arntzen, and Rosendale can give themselves—and Montanans have already seen the kind of campaign Zinke will run.