Poll Shows GOP Establishment’s Senate Pick Getting Clobbered In Primary Matchup


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Mary Lou Masters Contributor
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A poll released Thursday indicates the Senate GOP campaign arm’s pick to unseat Montana’s incumbent Democratic senator in 2024 is not faring well in a potential primary.

Former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy, who was recruited by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), is losing by double digits to Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, who’s considering a bid, according to a J.L. Partners survey. Sheehy garnered only 21% support compared to Rosendale’s 52%, with 28% of GOP primary voters remaining undecided as to which Republican should take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

Both Sheehy and Rosendale would beat Tester, but the former Navy SEAL is winning by a slightly larger margin of 1 point among likely general election voters, according to the poll. (RELATED: Top Montana State Republican Lawmakers Break From National GOP, Reveal Their Senate Pick)

“This poll shows Tim Sheehy has gained over 20 points on Matt Rosendale during his brief time in the race. Expect that trend to continue as Montana voters continue to learn about Sheehy’s military and business career,” NRSC Communications Director Mike Berg told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Other polling on this potential primary matchup indicates similar results, with a late June survey from the Democrat-aligned Public Policy Polling firm suggesting Sheehy would lose to Rosendale by 54 points. The congressman would also beat Tester by 5 points in a hypothetical 2024 general election matchup, according to an OnMessage Inc. survey from early March.

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 25: Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) speaks at a news conference on the progress of the Fiscal Year Appropriation Legislation outside the U.S. Capitol Building. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Sheehy founded an aerial firefighting company after serving in Afghanistan following 9/11, and has drawn criticism from some Republicans in the state regarding his lack of political experience in going up against a longtime Democratic senator. The businessman has the endorsement of Gov. Greg Gianforte, NRSC Chairman and Montana Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke and numerous other national Republicans.

Rosendale served in both chambers of the state Legislature, was state auditor and has been serving Montana in Congress since 2020. The House Freedom Caucus member previously challenged Tester in 2018 and lost by 3.5 points, which is why the NRSC has said they didn’t recruit him to run for the same seat in 2024.

The congressman was one of the 20 members who opposed GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California’s speakership bid in January, and held out until the 15th ballot to cast his vote for McCarthy.

Tester’s seat, which he’s held since 2006, is characterized by The Cook Political Report as in the “Lean D” category, along with Senate races in Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The J.L. Partners poll surveyed 418 likely Republican primary voters and 741 likely general election voters between Aug. 12 and Aug. 17.

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