Analysis of Montana’s 2016 Primary Election

by Dr. Ed Berry

The 2012 general election showed Republicans and Democrats each have about 230k voters in Montana. We will use 230k as a base to estimate relevant voter turnout.

The Democrats had 124k voters and the Republicans had 155k voters. In the 2012 primary the Democrats had 88k voters and the Republicans had 140k voters.

Those numbers represent a voter turnout of 54 percent for Democrats and 67 percent for Republicans in the 2016 primary. Voter turnout in 2012 was 38 percent for Democrats and 61 percent for Republicans.

The 2016 primary had 40 percent more Democrat voters and 10 percent more Republican voters than the 2012 primary.

For Democrats, the 2016 race between Hillary and Bernie was more attractive than the 2012 race of Obama with no competitor. In 2016, Bernie beat Hillary by a significant 63k to 55k.

The results show there was little if any crossover voting between parties. This is to be expected because the presidential races inspired interest to voters in both parties.

For Governor:

Democrats gave Governor Steve Bullock 87 percent of their primary vote in 2012 and 89 percent of their vote in 2016. Bullock has retained his popularity.

Republicans gave Greg Gianforte only 110k of their 155k votes, or 71 percent of their primary vote in 2016. This does not bode well for Gianforte because his primary competitor was only a stand-in for “anyone but Gianforte.”

Unless Gianforte makes significant gains among Republicans, he will get only about 71 percent of the Republican vote in November, which is not enough to beat Bullock.

Gianforte’s open promotion of his belief that the Earth and universe are only 6000 years old puts him squarely in the “Very Conservative Evangelical” Tea Party face of the Republican Party. Most Republicans also disagree with Gianforte’s suggestion to remove science courses from Montana schools.

To win, Gianforte must convince the remaining 29 percent of Republican voters that he would be a better governor than Bullock. Given Gianforte’s promotion of unscientific beliefs that most Republicans find irrational, I predict Gianforte will not increase his Republican following.

Gianforte is wide open to too many fundamental attacks by Bullock in the heat of the final campaign that he will not be able to overcome.

For US Congress:

Congressman Ryan Zinke collected 143k votes. That is more than any other candidate and 92 percent of the total Republican vote. I predict Montana will reelect Ryan Zinke to Congress.

For Attorney General:

Attorney General Tim Fox collected 138k votes. That is second to Zinke for the most votes in this election. It is 89 percent of the Republican vote. I predict Montana will reelect Tim Fox as Attorney General.

For President:

Hillary will win the Democrat nomination unless the FBI takes her out before the Democrat convention. I see no rational way to predict whether or not this will happen. It’s just a matter of wait and see. If the FBI takes out Hillary then Bernie will be the likely Democrat nominee.

Donald Trump collected 114k Republican votes compared to Mitt Romney’s 96k votes in 2012. Percentage wise, Trump got 19 percent more votes than Romney.

Trump will win the Republican nomination on the first ballot. He has over 1400 pledged delegates plus 95 unpledged delegates.

Some Montana delegates to the Republican national convention will be disappointed. They had hoped to go to the convention to nominate “anyone but Trump.” It won’t happen. I wrote that some Montana delegates do not represent Montana Republicans. Trump’s 74 percent win proves I am correct.

Many months ago, I predicted Trump would win Montana’s primary. Some Republicans in high places in the MTGOP and in Gianforte’s campaign disagreed with me. The results of this election prove some Republicans in high places simply do not understand Republican voters.

In the general election, Trump will win Montana by a wide margin. Trump’s popularity in Montana will help other Montana Republicans who openly support Trump. Gianforte did not attend Trump’s rally in Billings.

Trump will win the American popular vote. Trump is the only Republican candidate who has a chance to win. Those who think another Republican candidate can do better than Trump are delusional.

Whether Trump will win the presidency will depend upon a state-by-state analysis which is outside the scope of this article. However, even lacking that analysis, I predict Trump will beat Hillary by a wide margin in electoral votes.

If Bernie is not the Democrat candidate then many Bernie voters will vote for Trump. That is enough to make Trump win the state-by-state general election in a landslide.