New Poll Has Rosendale Up Over Sheehy, Both with Slim Leads Over Tester

More than half of likely GOP primary voters surveyed in August preferred hardline Congressman Matt Rosendale to take on Tester

By Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press
U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale speaks during a Glacier Country Pachyderm Club's meeting. Beacon file photo

New polling has Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale leading former Navy SEAL and businessman Tim Sheehy in a hypothetical 2024 U.S. Senate Republican primary matchup.

The poll, conducted by firm JL Partners and first reported by national outlet Semafor, surveyed 741 likely general election voters in Montana, of whom 418 are likely Republican primary voters. Out of that selection of primary voters, 52% said they would support Rosendale, while 21% said they would support Sheehy. More than a quarter of respondents were undecided. 

The poll of general election respondents also shows both would-be GOP nominees with a slim lead over the seat’s incumbent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, who is running for a fourth term. Those likely voters said they would support Sheehy over Tester 46% to 42% and Rosendale over Tester 46% to 43%. Those respondents comprised 35% self-identified Republicans and 24% Democrats with the rest unaffiliated or third-party. 

A note: Montana’s huge size, poor connectivity and sparse population make it difficult to poll accurately, and the Senate race is still in its infancy.

Sheehy is the pick of national Republican groups, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and other GOP luminaries to take on Tester, Montana’s only statewide-elected Democratic and a potentially vulnerable candidate in a state that former President Donald Trump carried handily. But Sheehy has also never run for office and has relatively little name recognition. That said, Semafor notes that he has launched his first major TV advertising push and has plenty of time to get in front of voters before next June. 

Rosendale has not formally announced plans to run for Senate, but it’s widely expected he’ll do so. Dozens of state lawmakers, fellow members of Congress and other right-wing boosters have encouraged him to run for Senate. On social media, Rosendale has telegraphed a primary bid against Sheehy, painting him as too connected with the national political establishment to serve Montana. But he’s also lost against Tester before, giving the Democrat the only majority-vote victory of his federal political career in 2018. Repeat matchups rarely work out for the losing candidate. 

It’s also not clear whether or who Trump will endorse in the primary, which could have a significant effect — the poll of primary voters shows a huge margin of victory for Trump over other Republican presidential candidates in Montana.

The JL Partners poll was conducted between Aug. 12 and Aug. 17. Of the respondents, 17% were reached via landline, 30% via cell, 47% via text and 6% via in-app polling. The firm said on its website that respondents “were randomly sampled from a modeled universe of likely voters in Montana derived from a state voter file” and “weighted on gender, age, education, race, and congressional district.”

This story originally appeared in the Montana Free Press, which can be found online at montanafreepress.org.