Rosendale holds big lead over establishment-backed Sheehy in Montana Senate race: poll

Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) holds a wide lead over businessman Tim Sheehy in a hypothetical Montana Republican Senate primary match-up, according to a poll released Thursday.

Rosendale has not announced a run against Sheehy, establishment Republicans’ candidate of choice for Sen. Jon Tester’s (D-Mont.) seat, but rumors about him launching a campaign have been swirling for a few months. Tester defeated Rosendale for Senate in 2018. 

The poll, conducted by J.L. Partners, showed Rosendale leading Sheehy by more than 30 points among likely Montana GOP primary voters, with 28 percent undecided on their choice of Republican nominee for the seat. Other findings in the poll include 52 percent of the voters saying they will vote for former President Trump in the upcoming GOP presidential primary. 

Tester is a top target of Republicans, who see ruby-red Montana as a prime pickup opportunity in 2024.

After acknowledging that “candidate quality” was a problem for the party in 2022, GOP Senate leaders recruited Sheehy, viewing him as more competitive in a general election. They are now expressing concerns about candidates like Rosendale and former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who is also expected to launch her own campaign for Senate in her state, complicating their path in 2024.

But Republican operatives have said that they believe National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are prepared to fight for Sheehy’s nomination and spend whatever amount is necessary.

“If Daines and Mitch want Sheehy to be the nominee, he will be,” a GOP operative told The Hill last week. “They’re just going to have to exert themselves to make sure.”

“This poll shows Tim Sheehy has gained over 20 points on Matt Rosendale during his brief time in the race. Expect that trend to continue as Montana voters continue to learn about Sheehy’s military and business career,” said NRSC Communications Director Mike Berg in a statement.

The poll was conducted Aug 12-17 with a sample of 418 likely Montana Republican primary voters. 

Updated: 5:26 p.m. ET

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