PJ Media

Democrats About Ready to Chalk Montana Up as a Loss

Sen. John Walsh’s best defense to a charge of plagiarizing his master’s thesis is that he doesn’t think he did it, and if he did, Walsh told the New York Times it was not “intentional.”

He also told The Associated Press that if he did it it might have been the result of post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Iraq. Walsh said he was on medication at the time and was coping with the recent suicide of a friend who served with him in Iraq.

Walsh served in Iraq as adjutant general of the Montana National Guard. His Senate website says he led hundreds of National Guard members into combat in 2004 and 2005.

The New York Times reported today that close to a quarter of Walsh’s research paper on American Middle East policy written in 2007 for the U.S. Army War College included “other authors’ work with no attribution.”

Walsh’s recommendations in the paper are almost a direct copy of a Carnegie Endowment for Peace document, according to the NYT, and other portions seem to have been lifted directly from a paper written by a Harvard scholar.

In a few months, it might not be clouds you see in the Big Sky over Montana. It might be a huge, white towel that Democrats have thrown into the senatorial ring.

Montana looks like a lost cause. Democrats got that harsh slap of ice-cold reality right across their collective face on page 11 of the Democracy Poll survey released Tuesday.

The survey, which was a function of Democracy Corps and Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, polled voters in the 12 states where the organizations believe Democrats’ control of the Senate is being most hotly contested.

“It shows that control of the Senate rests on a knife’s edge,” according to the survey’s authors, who put Montana in the third tier of the dozen states, the tier — including Montana, Georgia, Kentucky and West Virginia —that should be crossed off the Democratic Party’s list as lost causes.

The Democracy Poll shows Democrats have a lot to worry about in these days before the first Tuesday of November.

The party’s best chances to hang on to Senate seats are in the states of Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

The second tier of states — Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa and Louisiana — is what the Washington Post described as a “firewall” of protection for the Democrats’ majority in the Senate.

Real Clear Politics has a slightly more optimistic view of the Montana Senate race, ranking it as “leaning to” the Republican side.

Walsh is not giving up. He’s an anomaly among Democratic Senate candidates as he fights off the challenge of Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

For the most part, his fellow Democrats are trouncing their Republican opponents in fundraising, but not Walsh.

The New York Times reported the former lieutenant governor of Montana has consistently trailed Daines in both voter support and fundraising, as the incumbent tries to win election to the Senate for the first time.

Walsh was appointed to office by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and sworn into office in February, replacing former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who was appointed U.S. ambassador to China.

If there is any good news for the Democrats of Montana, here it is: While he’s still a relative pauper in terms of fundraising, Walsh is catching up to Daines in voter approval, thanks in part to (believe it or not) Republicans.

“Steve Daines is still the favorite in this race but it’s looking much more competitive now than it did last fall,” said Dean Debnam, the president of Public Policy Polling. “It’s as close as the races in places like New Hampshire and Michigan that are getting far more attention as ones to watch this fall.”

The authors of the Democracy Poll, as much as they don’t want to, would beg to disagree.

And, money is still a problem for Walsh – as well as his new plagiarizing scandal.

The Federal Election Commission shows the Daines campaign for Senate had $1.9 million cash on hand at the end of the second quarter. Walsh’s campaign only had $713,621 in the bank.

Net contributions for Walsh were lower than for Daines: $2.468 million for the Democrat, $3.54 million for the Republican.

But there is hope for Walsh. Daines’ lead among likely voters in Montana that had been gigantic is not anymore, at least according to the PPP survey.

Still, the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports June voter survey showed Daines had moved to an 18-point lead over Walsh in the Senate race.

Rasmussen Reports showed Daines with 53 percent of the vote compared to Walsh’s 35 percent. The Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of likely Montana voters also showed only three percent liked some other candidate in the race, while nine percent were undecided.

Even the Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling showed Daines was running away with the election late last year.

Walsh trailed Daines by 17 points in a November Public Policy Polling survey. However, that lead has vanished, or at least shrunk considerably according to PPP’s July survey.

What a difference eight months can make.

The newest PPP survey that was released July 21 showed Walsh now trails Daines only 46 percent to 39 percent in his quest to be elected for a full term. That represents a 10-point gain for Walsh since November when he trailed Daines by 17 points at 52 percent to 35 percent.

Walsh and Daines have very similar approval numbers. The Public Policy Polling survey shows Walsh is on slightly positive ground with 38 percent approving of his job in office and 37 disapproving, while Daines is on slightly negative ground at a 39/40 approval.

Daines’ approval numbers have dropped a net 9 points from last summer when PPP found him at a 41/33 spread. He went under water following the government shutdown and has not seen his numbers turn back around.

The PPP survey also shows more Montanans know Walsh is their junior senator and former lieutenant governor. But still Daines, elected to Congress in 2012, trumps Walsh’s name recognition.

“The more Montanans learn about John Walsh, the more they realize how important his courage and leadership are in the Senate, and Congressman Daines continues to struggle with his record of voting to privatize Medicare, cut Pell grants and sell off our public lands — while protecting tax breaks for millionaires like himself,” Walsh’s campaign spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Here’s something the Daines camp couldn’t have been counting on: Walsh has seen real improvement as he’s become better known is in his crossover support from Republicans.

While he trailed 90/3 with GOP voters in November, that deficit is now just 79/12.

Democrats are backing Walsh. He has a slightly more unified party behind him, getting 81 percent of Democrats. Daines leads 41/32 with independents, but that has tightened from 48/35 last fall.

The generic Senate ballot in Montana actually gives Republicans only a 45 percent to 41 percent lead. Daines’ lead is larger than that mostly based on his having slightly greater name recognition from having run statewide on his own account in 2012.