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Montana Special Election: Trump vs. Bernie vs. Hillary

Thursday’s the big day, although you probably haven’t heard. It’s another special election, in which Democrats hope to embarrass Donald Trump with an unlikely win. First, Democrats starved their candidate in Kansas—and lost. Then, they drowned their candidate with funds in Georgia—and lost again. Now, there’s Montana (is there a redder red state outside of the South?). But once again, the party is not trying to win, except for Bernie Sanders.

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We previewed the election back in February.

Montana At-Large

• Election date: [May 25] • 2016 presidential margin: Trump 56, Clinton 35
• 2016 House margin: Ryan Zinke (Republican) 56 percent, Denise Juneau (Democrat) 41 percent

Rep. Zinke, who currently holds Montana’s one House seat, is likely to be confirmed as secretary of the interior. But he hasn’t yet, so no date has been set for the vote to replace him. . .

Democrats have won a number of statewide races in Montana recently, including the governorship last year. They have a chance of winning this seat. But [Republican high-tech entrepreneur Greg] Gianforte would be a strong favorite. Montana is really red, after all. . .

Yeah. Trump won 56-35%, and Zinke won this seat in November by 56-41%. But Zinke’s not running now, and Trump’s popularity ain’t what it used to be. Still, polls show Republican Gianforte ahead, probably thanks to a huge cash advantage, according to the National Journal.

Republicans have held a significant financial advantage for the entire race, with 71 percent of the advertising money in the race spent on Gianforte’s behalf. . .

A Republican poll conducted May 14-16 found just 46 percent of Montana voters viewing President Trump favorably, while 47 percent view him unfavorably. This in a state where Trump won 56 percent of the vote, one of his strongest performances in the country. . .

Considering Trump’s unpopularity, why isn’t the Democratic Party working for Democrat Rob Quist? It looks like an extension of the Bernie-versus-Establishment battle. Sanders has been active in Montana, and the Party doesn’t want it to look like a win for Bernie. Can he beat the millions in corporate money flooding the GOP candidate?

Even With No Love from DNC, Sanders-Backed Montana Longshot Surges. . .

On Thursday, Quist’s campaign announced a startling $5 million fundraising haul that came from more than 200,000 individual donations [averaging $25 each] over the course of 85 days. What’s more, the political novice has refused contributions from lobbyists and corporate political action committees, earning him the respect of progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who will hold a campaign rally in Missoula on Saturday, as well as events in Butte, Billings, and Bozeman ahead of the May 25th special election. . .

However, the GOP and pro-corporate groups are clearly feeling the heat and pouring millions into the campaign of Quist’s Republican opponent, Greg Gianforte, a wealthy software engineer who launched a failed bid for Montana governor last year.

The local Bozeman Daily Chronicle quoted Bernie’s speech there.

“Rob has a crazy idea. He thinks maybe, just maybe, we should have a Congress that works for the working class and not the millionaires,” Sanders said. “Rob is going to Congress to change the priorities that currently exist.”. . .

“This is not a focus group guy, this is a man of the people,” Sanders said. “What he has done in the last couple months has been extraordinary.”

In addition to refusing corporate and lobbyist money, Quist has also refused help from the Democratic National Committee.

Rob Quist, a Democrat running for Congress, has declined help from the Democratic National Committee for Montana’s upcoming special election.

Quist denied an offer to campaign with DNC chair Tom Perez, but he has accepted support from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), the Huffington Post reported Sunday.

Aside from the Trump vs. Bernie battle and the Bernie vs. Establishment battle, the candidates have “dueled” about who is the bigger gun fan. For instance, Quist ran an ad showing him shoot a TV, so Gianforte ran a copycat ad of him shooting a TV.

Shots of the Republican New Jersey native walking around in an orange vest has the same optical credibility level as when Democrat Michael Dukakis was shown riding around in a tank in his battle with GHW Bush(41) in 1988.

The only real difference is that Quist thinks there are some guns that are not good, according to Breitbart.

Quist describes gun ownership as “a way of life,” yet simultaneously supports placing restrictions on “assault weapons.” He says that “assault weapons” are “only meant to kill people.”. . .

Whereas Bernie Sanders will stump for Quist throughout Montana, The Hill reports that pro-gun Donald Trump Jr. will be stumping for Gianforte.

Yes, New York Executive Donald Trump, Jr.—was awkwardly huntin’ prairie dogs in Montana.

Donald Trump’s son has come under fire after he accepted an invitation to shoot prairie dogs as part of a weekend of campaigning in Montana. . .animal protection charity The Humane Society has condemned the excursion, which is scheduled during the prairie dogs’s peak breeding season, meaning some of Mr Trump Jnr’s targets could be pregnant.

Other females will still be nursing their offspring and the hunt could lead pups to starvation, warned Lindsey Sterling Krank, the Prairie Dog Coalition director. . .

“In n using high-powered weapons to kill prairie dogs, the animals can seem to explode or have body parts severed and sent flying,” the charity said.

Prairie dogs are listed as a species of concern by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Park.

The Humane Society said the species has declined by more than 95 per cent because of poisoning and shooting, loss of habitat to development, intensive agriculture, and disease.

Trump Jr. had earlier been criticized for trophy hunting African big game, just for the thrill of the kill. In fact, Breitbart notes that Trump has become known for it.

Aside from the gun issue, Gianforte is having to answer questions about his investments in Russia. Seriously. Russia.

The leading candidates for Montana’s only congressional seat tangled Saturday over money, including taxes, campaign financing and $240,000 in investments by the Republican candidate that financial disclosures link to index funds with substantial holdings in Russian firms that are under sanctions by the U.S. government.

Also, of course, Gianforte has to try to convince voters that he does not belong to the corporations and lobbyists who are sending many millions of dollars to get him elected.

Meanwhile, Quist has had personal financial problems, according to Fox.

He originally underreported $57,000 worth of income in financial disclosures required to enter race. In addition, he defaulted on a $10,000 bank loan and until recently had three outstanding liens for roughly $15,000 in unpaid state taxes.

Quist also has a contractor who says he didn’t’ get paid, according to the Billings Gazette.

The oldest case involves Kraig Trippel, a Kalispell excavator who did $5,960 worth of work for Rob and Bonni Quist in the spring of 2001, but had to file a lien for payment after most of the bill went unpaid.

Of course, tax questions and unpaid contractors didn’t stop Trump from getting the White House. . .

Whether the campaign is about guns or about Trump, or Bernie vs. Hillary, the fact is that Republican Zinke has held the seat since 1969, Trump won bigly in November, and Republicans routinely win landslides in the state. Democrats will probably just have to “hunt” for a win elsewhere.

Goethe Behr: Goethe Behr is a Contributing Editor and Moderator at Election Central. He started out posting during the 2008 election, became more active during 2012, and very active in 2016. He has been a political junkie since the 1950s and enjoys adding a historical perspective.