Speed Reads

senate shift

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's coronavirus response might just win him a Senate seat

Add Montana to the list of Senate seats Democrats might just be able to pick up this fall.

After failing to make a splash in the 2020 presidential race, the term-limited Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock shifted to challenge Sen. Steve Daines (R) for his spot representing Montana. Daines once seemed like a safe bet for preserving his seat, but after Bullock scored high approval ratings for his handling of COVID-19, The Cook Political Report has shifted the race from "lean Republican" to a toss up.

Bullock ran for president by emphasizing he was the only Democrat who'd won statewide office in a state President Trump won in 2016. But Democrats largely wanted Bullock to challenge Daines instead and, after some convincing, he did. The Cook Political Report notes the coronavirus has obviously limited campaigning for any race, but Bullock's leadership during the pandemic did some campaigning for him. Only 20 people have died in Montana from COVID-19, and it has nearly the lowest per capita infection rate of any state in the U.S.

That all propelled approval numbers for Bullock's handling of the pandemic up as high as 75 percent in one poll, and Bullock has a statewide approval rating 20 points higher than Daines', The Cook Political Report notes. That, along with limited polling that puts Bullock in the lead, all propelled the race's move to a toss up. Arizona's Martha McSally, Colorado's Cory Gardner, Maine's Susan Collins, and North Carolina's Thom Tillis, are all Republican senators who've had their races deemed a toss up as well.