Poll: Tester Surges Ahead of Rehberg; Gillan Leads House Democratic Primary

By Beacon Staff

After consistently trailing in polls, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester surged ahead of his Republican challenger, Rep. Denny Rehberg, in the most recent Public Policy Polling survey released today.

Rehberg maintained a 2-point lead over Tester in PPP’s first three polls on Montana’s high-profile U.S. Senate race, but Tester now leads Rehberg by a margin of 48 percent to 43 percent. The polling institution says a foremost reason for the shift is an increase in Tester’s support from Democrats and independents.

According to PPP, Tester’s lead among Democrats grew up from 86-10 to 90-7, while his percentage lead among independents increased from 46-41 to 48-36. The polls finds that “the GOP’s trouble with women is showing itself in this contest,” with female voters favoring Tester 51-41. Rehberg is up 9 points with seniors but is “losing all of the younger age groups.”

“It’s hard to imagine this race ever straying too far from toss up status,” the PPP survey states, “but the trendline is encouraging for Tester given what our other polls had found.”

But it should be noted that, in addition to previous PPP surveys, Rehberg has maintained a lead over Tester in polls by Rasmussen Reports. In the most recent Rasmussen poll released in early April, Rehberg had a 47-44 lead over the incumbent.

In the race to replace Rehberg in the House, presumptive GOP nominee Steve Daines leads all potential Democratic challengers by comfortable margins, with Billings state Sen. Kim Gillan coming the closest at 33-27, followed by Bozeman Rep. Franke Wilmer losing to Daines by a margin of 36-25.

Gillan and Wilmer are the money leaders in the Democratic primary, though their combined cash in the bank – just over $200,000 in the latest campaign financial reports – is less than one-third of Daines’ total, which surpassed $700,000 at last count.

The House poll results are particularly interesting since there has been a lack of polling so far and their are seven Democrats battling in a competitive race, with the June 5 primary approaching fast. Gillan leads all Democrats in the primary, according to the PPP survey, with 21 percent of the vote, followed by Whitefish entrepreneur Diane Smith at 13, Wilmer at 11, Missoula city councilor Dave Strohmaier at 9, Billings real estate broker Sam Rankin at 4, Helena attorney Rob Stutz at 1 and Hardin farmer Jason Ward at 0 percent.

Most notably, 41 percent of primary voters are undecided. The race appears to be wide open heading into the stretch run.

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