Incumbents Fare Well in Poll

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – A new poll shows big approval ratings for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, Rep. Denny Rehberg and Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

All three, up for re-election in 2008, are strong favorites if the ballots were cast now, according to the survey conducted for the Lee Newspapers of Montana. The poll also showed that Montanans mostly favor GOP presidential candidates.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., questioned 625 people for the telephone poll last Monday through Wednesday. The poll’s margin of error is 4 percentage points.

Baucus, a Democrat, holds a job-approval score of 67 percent, followed by Schweitzer, also a Democrat, at 64 percent. Rehberg, a Republican, has a 61 percent approval rating.

“I don’t see any endangered incumbents right now in these offices,” said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.

Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat who beat incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns in November, had the lowest job-approval of Montana’s top elected officials with 46 percent. Coker, noting a large number of undecideds, said it is not unusual for someone new to office.

Rehberg was favored for re-election to a fifth two-year term by 62 percent of the respondents, while 30 percent said they would pick a Democrat instead. His only announced challenger so far is Democrat and Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy.

Baucus was picked for re-election by 60 percent, and 31 percent favored a Republican. former state House Majority Leader Michael Lange, R-Billings, recently announced he will challenge the five-term incumbent.

Schweitzer was favored for re-election by 57 percent, while 32 percent said they would prefer replacing him with a Republican. So far, no Republicans have stepped forward to challenge the first-term incumbent.

The poll showed Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain had the highest backing, with 62 percent saying they would vote for him, among the presidential candidates. He was followed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 59 percent, former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee at 57 percent and Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois at 55 percent.

The poll did not pose head-to-head questions, but simply asked respondents whether they would or would not consider voting for each of the candidates.

Republican presidential candidates have carried Montana in 12 of the 15 elections since 1948.

“Montana is a red state in presidential elections,” Coker said.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, at 39 percent, was last in support among the 13 candidates in the poll.

Former President Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to carry the state in a presidential race, and he did so largely because Perot captured 26 percent of Montana’s vote and cut into Republican President George H.W. Bush’s support.

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