​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​              A daily digest of Montana news

April 19, 2021


Shari Daniels helps a student get out of his wheelchair during recess at Poplar Elementary School. Daniels worked with students with disabilities as a teacher’s aide before completing formal training to teach in her hometown. (Erik Petersen / The Hechinger Report)


​​​​​BOTH political parties had their share of winners and losers this election, but there was one clear set of losers: the pollsters.

Pollsters greatly underestimated the level of support for President Trump in many states – something that also happened in 2016, but didn’t get fixed.

Polling on Senate races around the country was even more off base. In the Maine U.S. Senate race, for example, incumbent Sen. Susan Collins trailed Democratic challenger Sara Gideon in every major poll. One had Collins 12 points behind. But she ended up winning by a 9-point margin.

The same scenario played out in Montana.

The Mountain States Poll sponsored by MSU-Billings gave Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock a 48-47 point lead over Sen. Steve Daines. The GOP senator won by 10 points.

Same for the MSU-Bozeman poll, which gave Bullock a 2-point edge a couple weeks before the election. Likewise, that same poll gave GOP state Auditor Matt Rosendale a 48-46 percent edge over Democrat Kathleen Williams in their congressional contest, but Rosendale won by a 56-44 margin.

In the Mountain States Poll, Rosendale led Williams 47-46.

One of the few races that a Montana poll came close to getting right was the governor’s race. The MSU poll had GOP Congressman Greg Gianforte leading Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney leading 47 to 42. Gianforte actually won by more than 12 points, but that was still more than the poll's 3,9 percent margin of error.

The MSU-Billings poll had Gianforte and Cooney in a dead heat at 45 each.

From July 1 until Election Day, 17 polls took the pulse of Montana voters, and virtually all of them declared the Senate race a neck-and-neck affair. Some said Bullock was leading by as much as 4 points. Only one pollster, Emerson College, came close to getting a true measure of the sentiment of voters, having Daines up by 6 points in one and 9 by another.

In an interview aired Sunday with GOP and Democratic strategists Ashlee Strong and Eric Stern, MTN’s Jay Kohn asked about the polls. Both Strong and Stern said private polls done for the parties and candidates have been a lot more accurate than public polls, particularly those done by Montana's universities. What's the point, they agreed, in having taxpayers fund polls that have been so far off the mark in several election cycles?

Update: MTN's Mike Dennison has done a story in which he asks how the pollsters "missed the mark so badly." Possible factors, according to the analysts and pollsters he talked to: Many GOP voters are reluctant to talk to pollsters as they see them as part of the liberal media, or the polls used faulty methodologies that didn't adjust for the number of GOP voters there are in Montana. Another possibility: the unexpectedly large turnout worked to the advantage of the GOP -- and wasn't factored into poll possibilities. 

UM political scientist Rob Saldin noted that the internal polling done by campaigns was closer to the mark. Still, Saldin said, they were "every bit as surprised – not necessarily in terms of who won, but by the huge margins that we saw the Republican candidates win by.”  

BESIDES bombarding Montana readers with political news, five Montana daily newspapers have started to roll out endorsements of candidates for state office. As of Oct. 30, they'd done 32. The most notable thing about them? All but five -- or about 85 percent -- have gone to Democrats.

Conservatives will say they aren't surprised; it is just more evidence of media bias. Liberals -- and journalists -- will say Democrats just have superior candidates this cycle.

In an editorial endorsing five Democrats in down-ballot contests, the Bozeman Chronicle acknowledged that its decision will "bring into question our impartiality and ability to make nonpartisan calls." But it argued it wasn't swayed by political parties but by the need to endorse "the best candidate in each particular race,"​

​In that editorial, the paper endorsed Democrats Shane Morigeau for auditor, Melissa Romano for school superintendent, Raph Graybill for attorney general, Bryce Bennett for secretary of state, and Tom Woods for PSC. The paper also has endorsed Mike Cooney for governor, Kathleen Williams for Congress, and Steve Bullock for the Senate.

Here are the other four newspapers and their endorsements so far. We'll update the list as they continue to come in.

Billings Gazette: Greg Gianforte for governor, Troy Downing for auditor and Matt Rosendale for US House (three of only five Republicans to get an endorsement so far). Also, Democrats Bullock for governor, Romano for school superintendent, Bennett for secretary of state, Graybill for attorney general, and Valerie McMurtry for PSC.

Helena Independent Record: Cooney for governor. Also, Romano and Morigeau, as well as Republicans Austin Knudsen for attorney general and Chrisi Jacobsen for secretary of state, the only other GOP candidates beside Rosendale and Downing to win newspaper nods.

Missoulian: Bullock for US Senate, Williams for US House, Cooney for governor, Bennett for secretary of state, Graybill for attorney general, Romano for superintendent, Morigeau for auditor, and Monica Tranel for PSC.

Montana Standard: Bennett for secretary of state, Graybill for attorney general, Bullock for US Senate, and Cooney for governor.​


Concealed carry law could effect state workers, business owners

Montana scientists develop test for chronic wasting disease

Supreme Court rejects legislative requests for internal communications

2 Billings homicide suspects found dead after car chase

Judge sides with environmentalists in sheep grazing dispute

Governor signs bills defending free speech on Montana campuses

Highway Patrol to move its headquarters from Helena to Boulder

Bear mauling triggers closure of forest near West Yellowstone

Legislators delay in-person meetings after COVID case appears

Last of imprisoned Montana Freemen dies in Indiana

Secretary of State issues 'open letter' regarding Missoula Co claims

Former Malmstrom airman pleads guilty to accidental shooting death

A better way to deal with the rural school teacher shortage?

High court cancels conditions in stolen valor case

Judge strikes down government approval of long-stalled copper mine

Missoula conservation activist tapped to head BLM

Dems decry GOP effort to create judicial commission

Governor executive order bans use of vaccine passports in MT

Isbell, Harris headliners for Under the Big Sky festival in July

Judith Gap teacher faces child port charges

Man who pleaded guilty to killing woman on Crow Reservation dies

Montana counties pausing their use of J&J vaccine

Legislature overrides governor's first veto

Lawmakers refuse to comply with court's orders on judge's emails

Judge denies Montana, Arizona efforts to end 'pause' on deportations

Lawmaker advance bill for $2.1 billion in federal funding

Legislators may change bill dealing with transgender youth

Families struggle to cope with prolonged US-Canada border closing

Blackfeet Nation reopens after long, strict pandemic closure



Big development planned north of downtown Bozeman

Montana ag producers speak against California animal rights measure

Power honey producers gear up for another season

Flathead native seeks confection perfection in new business

Senate OKs bill that would let utility pass Colstrip costs to customers

Whitefish Mountain Resort enjoys busiest year ever

Washington's Avista Corp. eyes Montana wind power

Cape Air, which serves rural Montana, getting new fleet of planes


Grizzlies throttle Portland State 48-7 in second spring game

NC State transfer Matthew McKay leads Cats' QB battle

Billings Senior's Bergen  switches commitment from Cats to Griz

Bobcats sign 7-3 Oregon post player

Oregon State's Brian Holsinger hired as Lady Griz new head coach

MSU adds Washington transfer RaeQuan Battle

UM manhandles Central Washington, but QB battle isn't settled

MSU basketball coaches win 4-year extensions


Legislators right to torpedo bill that targeted American Prairie Reserve

Pot initiative passed by voters is 'nuts,' and legislators must fix it

Suit challenging end of Judicial Nominating Commission appropriate

Regents should challenge new conceal-carry gun law in court

Daines should give Haaland a fair hearing as Interior nominee

Keep the Judicial Nominating Commission in place

Biden's mask mandate for federal lands makes sense in many cases

Legislature must keep caucuses open to public and press


Music starts making a comeback under the Big Sky

Swan Lake log home has tie to early-day Montana copper king

Flathead gunsmith fashions a life as a modern-day mountain man

Scientists still puzzled why these big rocks near Butte 'ring'

Historian brings to life story of single mom homesteader

Poplar actress JaNae Collins wins role in Scorsese movie

Case of Ronan priest who vanished in 1984 has never been solved


Summer music festivals, concerts on tap in Montana

Foreigner to perform in Billings in June, Butte in September

Under the Big Sky Festival slated for Flathead in mid-July

Country star Travis Tritt to perform in Billings July 31​​

MSU's Kenny Chesney concert rescheduled for July of 2022

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