A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

2 June 2017 — 1046 mdt

Tester needs an extraordinary midterm turnout to win in 2018


Sen. Jon Tester won his U.S. Senate seat in 2006 and 2012 by narrow pluralities. In 2006, he defeated three-term incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns by 3,562 votes, aided by an extraordinarily high midterm turnout— a throw out the bums turnout — and Libertarian Stan Jones, the bluefaced man, who received 10,377 votes. Jones probably drew enough votes from Burns, who, at 71, clearly was losing his mojo, to assure Tester’s victory.

Six years later, running in a Presidential election, Tester again won with a plurality, but the election wasn’t as close. Libertarian Dan Cox received more votes than separated Tester from Rehberg, but an application of the one-half rule(1) suggests that Tester would have won had Cox not been on the ballot.


Next year, Tester stands for re-election in another midterm election. If history is a guide, the probability that the turnout will approach the turnout of 2006 is very low.

Democrats are hoping that hostility to the reactionary policy agenda of President Trump and Speaker of House Paul Ryan will produce a throw the bums out turnout on the order of 2006. That’s possible. But even if a turnout that high, which was Montana’s highest midterm turnout since 1994, materializes, it may not be sufficient to return Tester to Washington, D.C. In recent elections, Democrats, concentrating on making sure the choir gets to church, and on not stirring the unrepentant and irredeemable from their slumber, have neglected souls that can be saved. Next year, Democrats must both get the choir to church, and persuade lost souls that embracing Jon Tester and the Democratic Party brings salvation. Ring the bell, knock on doors, and thump the bible.

(1) If a third party or independent candidate is not on the ballot, approximately one-half of the voters supporting that candidate will instead vote for the closest ideological match still on the ballot.