One election will not erase what is Donald Trump. Most of his voters see him as the antidote to business as usual. He’s shaking thing up (even if there is disagreement on specific issues). Destroying health care? Yes. So what. At least something new will surface.
Montana voters, it would seem, have a lot more at stake than most. This is a state where Medicaid expansion is working well. That very idea will be repealed in the Republican plan. So this election is a big deal.
Except voting is soooo hard. Especially when it’s a special election and no one is running for president.
Some numbers: Denise Juneau lost that same congressional district in November earning 201,758 votes to Ryan Zinke’s 280,472.
On Thursday Greg Gianforte won with 50.2 percent of the vote and only 189,240. In November 74.44 percent of the electorate showed up. Thursday night it was 54.4 percent.
Glacier County is a case in point. This is where the Blackfeet Nation votes. Juneau won the county by more than two-to-one over Zinke. In November more than 5,000 people voted. Last night: About 2,400.
So Democrats may be soothed by the fact that Gianforte lost nearly 7 points from Zinke’s win in November. The idea being that Democrats are picking up strength in a pro-Trump state. But when so few people vote that really has to be seen as an outlier statistic. Matthew Yglesias wrote as much for Vox. That geography determines so much of the Congress and that turns into a Republican advantage. But, “for prognostication purposes you don’t just want to know who wins or loses a special election — you want to know the margin,” he writes. “To win by only seven in Montana, a state that Trump won by 20 points, is a clear sign that seats Trump won by four or five points or more aren’t truly safe.”
True enough. But it really will depend on who shows up at the polls in 2018.
Yes this was a special election. Yes the rules were confusing (changed along the way) about where to vote and how. That just is a call to better. To figure out how to get more people engaged.
To me the real loss in Montana is that in an era when so much is at stake, 321,000 voters passed. They voted that voting is not all that important.
Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReportsShare on Facebook