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Polls show Sheehy’s ad blitz is boosting his numbers in Montana primary

Montana Senate hopeful Tim Sheehy and his allies mounted an ad blitz earlier this year to boost him through a possible GOP primary. It might be paying off.

A new poll — the second in as many weeks — shows Sheehy leading Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale in a Republican primary to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. Rosendale, the 2018 nominee who lost to Tester, is expected to enter the race, much to the chagrin of GOP leaders who recruited and endorsed Sheehy, believing he has the best chance to unseat the incumbent.

The survey of 888 likely Republican primary voters was conducted in mid-November by co/efficient, a Republican firm. It found Sheehy leading Rosendale, 40 percent to 24 percent. Two other candidates got 5 percent of the vote combined with another 31 percent undecided. Co/efficient is not supporting any candidate in the race.

That jibes somewhat with an internal poll from late October that had Sheehy leading 44 percent to Rosendale’s 41 percent. That survey was conducted by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates for a pro-Sheehy super PAC.

Polling of the race has been slim, but two surveys conducted earlier this year had Rosendale leading Sheehy. An internal poll in February from Rosendale’s campaign found the congressman with 36 percent of the vote, compared to 2 percent for Sheehy, who had not yet launched a campaign and had low name recognition at the time. A Democratic survey conducted in June found Rosendale leading by 54 points.

But Sheehy’s campaign has been on air since July, with an ad buy totaling more than $1.5 million, and a pro-Sheehy super PAC also went up with a radio ad in October. Both have largely aired positive spots that stress Sheehy’s background as a Navy SEAL-turned-aerial firefighter. In the most recent survey, pollster Ryan Munce found 51 percent had heard of Sheehy primarily from his TV ads and 45 percent said his ads made them more likely to vote for him.

“The recent television ads have been particularly effective in carving Sheehy’s name and candidacy, according to half of likely primary voters,” Munce wrote in a memo.

More ads are coming. More Jobs, Less Government, the pro-Sheehy PAC, is going up Tuesday with a second ad in a $250,000 radio buy that will run until Christmas. The minute-long spot touts Sheehy’s bio as a “pro-Trump conservative” and “a decorated Navy SEAL” and also knocks President Joe Biden’s immigration policies. It notes that Sheehy supports former President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and opposes amnesty.

The goal of the ad blitz is twofold: boost Sheehy while burying Rosendale’s lead. It’s a welcome strategy for Senate GOP leaders, especially the conference’s campaign chief Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who want Sheehy as their nominee.

Senate Republicans got good news in West Virginia this month when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced his retirement. Now focus turns to Montana, a state Trump carried by a double-digit margin in 2020. Tester is running for reelection and has already gone up on TV.