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Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

September 24, 2018

Better Know a Senate Race: Montana, West Virginia, & Missouri Edition

Elections / National / Midterm

Map highlighting Montana, West Virginia and Missouri


The 2018 midterm elections are vital in states which voted for President Trump but are currently represented by Democrats, and Montana is one of these states.  Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester is going up against Republican challenger Matt Rosendale.  Rosendale won the Republican nomination following a tight primary campaign in which he won by a plurality of 34%, equating to just under 52,000 votes.  Sen. Tester ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and will now move on to the general election.  Both of these candidates have experience as civil servants; Tester has served as a Senator of Montana since 2006, and Rosendale has served as State Auditor, as well as serving as a state-level representative and senator.

A major concern for the Tester campaign is the recent trend of Republican support throughout the state.  President Trump won Montana by 20% in 2016, and in the 2014 election for Montana’s other Senate seat, the former Democratic incumbent, John Walsh, was succeeded by Republican Steve Daines following a plagiarism scandal which resulted in a last-minute candidate change by the Democratic Party.  Daines beat late Democratic candidate Amanda Curtis by almost 13%.  The strong support for Trump may provide a significant benefit for Rosendale, who refers to himself as a Trump Conservative.  Despite this trend, many sources, including the Cook Political Report, has Tester’s seat classified as “Likely D”, the second-strongest Democratic ranking.  This classification is partly supported by a poll conducted by Remington Research, which shows Tester polling at 49% and Rosendale at 46%. Conversely, a poll conducted by WPA Intelligence reports Rosendale leading Tester 47-45.  However, Tester is still within the margin of error (+/- 4.0) of the poll and has a higher favorability rating than Rosendale, 46-44.  Additionally, it should be noted that the WPA Intelligence poll was conducted for and sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which may have led to the results favoring Rosendale.

In terms of fundraising, the Tester campaign has an advantage over the Rosendale campaign.  Sen. Tester has raised $14.3 million total and currently has $6.1 million cash on hand heading into the final months of the campaign.  Of Tester’s $14.3 million, $13.2 million has come from contributions of all kinds.  Additionally, in terms of satellite spending, just under $1.1 million has been spent in support of Tester while $430,000 has been spent in opposition.  These levels of satellite spending reflect the favorability rating of Tester.  Conversely, Rosendale has raised $2.1 million total and has $640,000 cash on hand remaining.  Individual contributions account for almost all of Rosendale’s fundraising.  Additionally, due to Rosendale’s lack of exposure in the national arena, a large sum of supportive satellite money has been spent, just under $2.4 million.  Despite seeing more supportive satellite spending than his total campaign contributions, Rosendale has been subjected to an even larger sum of opposition group spending, totaling roughly $3.25 million.  Yet again, satellite spenders may be providing such large sums of money in opposition in order to maintain or raise Tester’s favorability rating among the public.  Due to Rosendale’s lack of remaining funds compared to Tester, this could be a serious problem going into the final months of campaigning.  However, satellite agencies and organizations are obviously committed to fighting for Rosendale, as evidenced both by spending and a number of against Tester.

West Virginia

In West Virginia, the Democratic Party is supported by incumbent Rep. Joe Manchin III while the Republican Party is supported by Patrick Morrisey.  Both candidates have served public office in WV; Manchin has represented West Virginia in the U.S. Senate since 2010 and Morrisey has served as Attorney General of West Virginia since 2013.  Despite having an advantage as the incumbent Senator, Manchin has reason to be concerned about his seat in the Senate.

Republican Shelley Moore Capito won a Senatorial seat in West Virginia in 2014 by a margin of 27.6%, meaning this state may not see as big of a “blue wave” as other states might.

However, Manchin has raised significant funds during the 2018 campaign season.  Manchin has raised $7.3 million so far whereas Morrisey has raised $3.1 million.  These funds have contributed to the ads being run by each candidate, a number of which are available for viewing here.

poll conducted by MetroNews in late August reports Manchin securing 46% of the vote as opposed to Morrisey at 38%.  Similarly, a poll conducted by Harper Polling and sponsored by the 35thPAC shows Manchin still ahead at 47% followed by Morrisey just slightly closer at 41%.  This may be due to a recent trip to West Virginia by President Trump, one of Morrisey’s endorsers; additional endorsements include the NRA, the West Virginia Farm Bureau, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Manchin’s endorsements include Democrats for Life of America, United Mine Workers of America, and West Virginia AFL-CIO.

The Wason Center currently rates this race as Lean Democrat.


The race in Missouri is strikingly similar to that in West Virginia.  Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill is facing Republican challenger Josh Hawley.  McCaskill has served Missouri in the U.S. Senate since 2007, and Hawley has been serving Missouri as Attorney General since 2017.

Numerous polls have shown considerable shifts in numbers between McCaskill and Hawley.  However, the two most recent polls currently show McCaskill ahead by a margin of 3-4%.  This may be in part to strong ad campaigning supported by the McCaskill campaign’s strong fundraising, which totals around $22.8 million.  This is roughly 4.5 times more than the Hawley campaign, which last reported $5.3 million total funds raised.

McCaskill has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, End Citizens United, the Feminist Majority PAC, Los Angeles Women’s Collective, and the National Education Association.  These endorsements display McCaskill’s progressive lean due to support from a number of feminist organizations as well as organizations which promote liberal sentiments.  Hawley has been formally endorsed by Missouri Right to Life, the NRA, and Senate Conservatives Fund, further cementing his ties to the right due to support from gun rights and pro-life organizations.

The Wason Center currently rates this race as Toss Up.

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