The race to replace Brian Schweitzer as Governor of Montana continues to look like a toss up, with Republican frontrunner Rick Hill at 39% to likely Democratic nominee Steve Bullock's 38%.
Despite the closeness of the race Bullock is actually far more popular with voters in the state than Hill is. 34% have a favorable opinion of him to only 17% with a negative one. Bullock is seen positively by Democrats and independents, and breaks even with Republicans. By comparison only 22% of voters see Hill favorably while 27% have an unfavorable opinion. The Republican lean of the state balances out Bullock's superior popularity though.
Very similar trends are emerging in the races for Senate and Governor in Montana. In each instance the likely Democratic candidate has better poll numbers personally than the likely Republican candidate. But the Democrat trails by a small margin in both contests anyway- it takes a huge disparity in candidate quality for Democrats to win in Montana and that may or may not exist in these races.
If a Republican other than Hill were to win the nomination, Bullock would start out with a healthy lead. He's up 9 points on Ken Miller at 40-31 and 12 points on Jeff Essmann and Neil Livingstone at 42-30 and 41-29 respectively.
There's pretty much no doubt that Bullock will be the Democratic nominee. He leads primary foe Larry Jent 70-6 in a hypothetical head to head. But on the extremely off chance that Jent did get the Democratic nomination, Republicans would have the advantage. Hill leads Jent by 13 at 39-26, Miller lead him by 8 at 33-25, and Essmann and Livingstone both lead him by 4 at 30-26.
The Presidential race probably won't be very compelling in Montana next year but between toss up Senate and Gubernatorial contests and a House race that has the potential to fit in that category as well there won't be many states with more interesting down ballot action in 2012.
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