It is very, very unusual for a major candidate to begin his quest for state-wide office with negative name ID among the general public. I cannot recall a major nominee, for Senate, Governor, or any other major race in Montana, who began with negative popularity. I’ve never seen it before. Generally they are either popular by a good ratio, or else unknown.
And yet in the last two polls conducted in Montana, Rick Hill, running for Governor, has gotten strong negative ratings. The first one, done late last year, showed him at 16-19 pos/neg. The second one, done last week, shows him at 20-25 pos/neg.
By contrast, Steve Bullock, the likely Democratic nominee, is in the opposite situation. He is always been popular and remains so, at a 28-18 pos/neg. This bodes extremely well for Bullock to be the next Governor. Something about Rick Hill clearly smells bad to a lot of voters, and so Bullock starts out a favorite. My prediction is Bullock takes him. Realize, also, that Hill had a ten point lead over Bullock in the last poll, but in this latest one, Bullock has completely erased that deficit.
One flaw with this poll was that it didn’t didn’t take into account the Libertarian in the race, Ron Vandevender, who as a third party candidate automatically moves beyond the primary into the general.
Hill will most likely be the GOP nominee. The man previously thought to be his closest contender, millionaire terrorist expert Neil Livingstone, appears to be AWOL. He hasn’t campaigned, has barely spoken to the press, skipped the major candidate forum at the GOP convention, and wasn’t even included on the latest poll. This is a sign that his campaign will either quickly go down the drain, or else he’ll try to buy the victory with some massive expenditure of his personal fortune. My sense is this guy has neither the stomach nor the inclination to put much effort into this race, and is setting himself up to get a little name recognition so he can run against Baucus in 2014, and go back to Washington DC where he is from.
Ken Miller is the dark-horse, for sure, but it is not clear that he has any fundamental knowledge about how to win a state-wide race. Corey Stapleton, after beginning the race by referring to himself in his official biography as a “child addict” and then quickly removing this reference when the blogs caught on to it, is clearly not a serious threat, nor is he likely a consideration for a number two spot.
As with Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney (probably), the GOP will simply go with what it knows, go with the veteran. And lose.