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Poll: Bullock leads Daines in Montana Senate race

Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockInterior says Pendley to remain at BLM despite 'dramatic tweets' from Democrats Democrat trails by 3 points in Montana Senate race: poll Poll shows statistical tie in Montana Senate race MORE (D) leads Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesDemocrat trails by 3 points in Montana Senate race: poll Poll shows statistical tie in Montana Senate race Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Mont.) by 7 points in the state’s Senate race, according to a new poll from Montana State University released on Tuesday, a sign that the seat is in play as a possible pickup for Democrats.

Forty-six percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Bullock, who is finishing out his second and last term in the governor’s mansion, while 39 percent said they plan on supporting Daines in the November election.

Seven percent of respondents said they are undecided, and another 6 percent said they will vote for another candidate, according to the poll.

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With a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, the poll suggests a tight race between Bullock and Daines, who is among nearly two dozen Republican incumbents in the Senate facing reelection this year. 

“I think it’s certainly reasonable to assume that the race is probably within the margin of error and too close to call,” David Parker, the chair of the political science department at MSU, told Montana-based MTN News. “So, while we show a lead [for Bullock], it’s within the margin of error, so I would say, yeah, this is a competitive Senate race.”

The poll also suggests a relatively tight White House race in the state between President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Trump campaign eyes election night party at his sold-out DC hotel Harris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' MORE, the presumptive Democratic nominee. About 45 percent of respondents said they would vote for Trump, while nearly 40 percent said they would support Biden.

Democrats need to pick up either three or four seats in the Senate, depending on which party wins the White House in November, to capture a majority in the chamber. 

So far, Democrats’ path to the majority has centered on four states: Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina, where Republican incumbents are fending off tough Democratic challenges. 

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But one Democrat, Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), is considered particularly vulnerable as well, and Democrats are searching for pickup opportunities to make up for a potential loss by Jones in November. 

One of those opportunities may be in Montana. Daines has remained relatively popular throughout his first term in the Senate, but Bullock’s support has remained strong, as well. 

One factor that may have boosted Bullock’s standing in his home state is his response to the coronavirus pandemic. The MSU poll released on Wednesday showed 70 percent of those surveyed approving of his response to the outbreak. For Daines, about 48 percent said they approve of his handling of the pandemic.

Bullock mounted an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year and ended his campaign in early December. He long resisted calls to challenge Daines for the Senate seat before reversing course in March. 

In his first few weeks on the campaign trail, Bullock brought in about $3.35 million for his Senate bid, outraising Daines by more than $2 million. Daines still finished the first quarter of the year with a cash-on-hand advantage over Bullock, reporting about $5.6 million in the bank compared to his Democratic rival’s roughly $3.2 million.

Election handicappers still give Daines a slight edge in the race. The Cook Political Report rates the contest as “lean Republican.”

The MSU poll surveyed 738 Montanans from April 10 to 27. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.