By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
But Cox may send Tester back to the U.S. Senate on Nov. 6. Cox, according to the survey, pulled down 8 percent — a number hurting U.S. Rep. Rehberg more than Tester.
The survey was conducted Sept. 10 and 11 with a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points. Three percent of those polled were undecided.
Pundits across Montana have recognized that libertarians extract more votes from Republicans than Democrats in statewide races.
In fact, Tester owes his U.S. Senate seat to Libertarian Stan Jones. In the 2006 Senate election, Jones grabbed 10,000 votes, primarily from Republican U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns. Tester eked out an upset with 3,000 votes on election night.
Tester and his allies recognize this. They’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars casting Rehberg as a promoter of Big Brother and a proponent of government spying.
Silver lining wraps the numbers for the GOP challenger: According to PPP numbers, Rehberg’s gaining on Tester. A late April poll by the same firm had Tester up 48 percent to 43 percent.
Still, PPP’s results are vastly different from Rasmussen Reports survey’s on the tight contest. An Aug. 20 Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters gave Rehberg 47 percent to Tester’s 43 percent. This survey had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.
There’s a key difference between the two polls, however. Rasmussen, typically a conservative polling operation, excluded Cox’s name from its survey. Of the Rasmussen respondents, 5 percent preferred “some other candidate,” while another 5 percent were undecided.
The state’s other high-profile GOP candidate, Bozeman businessman and U.S. House candidate Steve Daines, might also have reason for concern.
The PPP polls showed Daines in a tighter-than-expected contest with state Sen. Kim Gillan, D-Billings. Daines notched 40 percent of the 500 likely voters in the Rasmussen poll, while Gillan grabbed 37 percent.
Both candidates struggle with name recognition among voters. More than 55 percent of likely voters aren’t familiar with either Daines or Gillan, a problem clearly favoring Daines, who last week promised to spend more than $1 million on television advertising in the weeks leading to the election.
Daines holds a massive cash advantage over the Democratic challenger. At one point, the former RightNow Technologies executive held nearly 10 times more money than Gillan.
In the House race, Libertarian David Keiser notches 7 percent of likely voters.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney leads President Barack Obama 50 percent to 45 percent in Montana, at least when Libertarian Gary Johnson’s name isn’t in the mix. When the PPP pollster mentioned the former New Mexico governor, Romney still bested Obama, but by a narrower margin. With Johnson included, Romney pulled 46 percent, Obama 43 percent and Johnson 7 percent.
Contact Dustin Hurst at Dustin@Watchdog.org or follow him on Twitter @DustinHurst.