Will Trump hurt Gianforte and Zinke come November?

Ryan Zinke and Teen Wolf at a 2014 Republican debate in Great Falls

Ryan Zinke and Teen Wolf at a 2014 Republican debate in Great Falls

If you write about politics, don’t try to predict the future. Every right prediction seems obvious in retrospect, and every wrong one will haunt your career, unless your dad was the editor of Commentary. The wise commentator will limit himself to expressing opinions on things that have already happened, so that when people point out his obvious stupidity, he can distract them with the claim that reasonable people can disagree about matters of opinion. I know from experience. This week, though, I have broken my own rule and prognosticated on the fortunes of Rep. Ryan Zinke and gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte if they appear on the same ballot as Donald Trump—or on one from which Trump is conspicuously absent.

One of those scenarios will happen. Between now and the Republican convention in July, Trump will either secure the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination or, you know, not. If he doesn’t, he is very likely to be denied in a brokered convention. That would be awesome for us, the viewing public, but it might be terrible for Republican candidates further down the ticket. Trump’s 62% unfavorable rating makes him the most unpopular man in the field. But he is also the most popular, and if he doesn’t leave Cleveland as his party’s nominee, the 40% or so of Republicans who support him might simply stay home.

That would be bad for Zinke and Gianforte. But the scenario in which Trump does top the Republican ballot might be comparably bad for the billionaire from Bozeman, whose campaign has been pitched to the same traditional, business-friendly Republicans Trump has alienated. Faced with a choice between the man who threatens to destroy their party and Hillary Clinton, they might decide not to choose at all. A Trump nomination would almost certainly dampen turnout, and it would be bad news for Gianforte in his race against a moderate-Democrat incumbent.

What a Trump ticket might do to Zinke in his race against Denise Juneau is less clear. In the contest between out lesbian and former Navy SEAL, it seems fairly easy to predict which direction Trump voters would go. But the number of Trump voters in Montana remains almost totally unknown. If the Montana electorate resembles that of Wyoming—where Trump won a dismal 7% in the primary—he might keep more Republicans away from the polls than he attracts.

You can read about my handicapping of this horse race in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. Read it slowly, because you’re not likely to get another blog post until Tuesday. I’m going to Memphis this weekend to violate norms of decency with my friends, and I’ll probably be too hepped up on goofballs to report. But who knows? Soothsaying is a sucker’s game.

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  1. Frank Jorge on dismal Trump turnout in Wyoming: Posted in Wyoming for Donald Trump for Potus. Frank Jorge is admin of the PAge and knows what he talking about. ”
    Frank Jorge
    March 14 at 11:34pm
    So what happened with Wyoming and the Ted Cruz victory?
    It’s very simple…our votes don’t count in the Wyoming GOP.
    Allow me to explain. You will have an opportunity to vote in the Wyoming Primary for the POTUS candidates selected for you by the GOP. So how do they select “their guy”? In Wyoming if you are a Republican you must approach your Precinct Committee person and tell them that you would like for them to vote for your preferred candidate. Others will do the same and their choice may not be yours. Now the Precinct people elect delegates for the County Convention. There they will elect twelve delegates and ten alternates. It was at this event that those delegates cast their votes and Cruz came out on top. That was then broadcast to the rest of the USA as “Wyoming” voted for Cruz and dealt a crushing defeat to Donald Trump. Obviously that was not the case….you didn’t get to cast a vote because the system is designed that way. All you could do as a working man or woman, a member of the Republican Party, was to have approached your Precinct person and have let them know who your favorite is. Now the delegates elected at the County Convention go to the State gathering and there they elect fourteen more delegates. There are three automatic delegates, Party Chairman, National Committee woman and National Committee Man. Now you have a total of 29 delegates and all or some of these will go to the National Republican convention where they will choose who the Presidential candidates will be. The approved candidates that THEY have selected for POTUS will appear on your Wyoming Primary for you to select from. What influence or “vote” did you have when deciding between Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or John Kasich? None! It was all decided without any real vote from you by Republican Party officials. All that is available to us is the freedom to suggest whom we want. I firmly believe that the results we recently heard coming from the Republican Party in Wyoming do not in any way represent the people of Wyoming…clearly what we got was THE PARTY’S decision. There has been an expressed desire to move to a Primary system where we the people vote directly for who we want. It is overdue.”

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