U.S. Sen. Daines holds onto seat, Trump wins in Montana

Tracking presidential results and the senate race between Steve Daines and Steve Bullock.

Montana Senator Steve Bullock won the state’s high-priced senate race tonight in a 53.3% to 46.7% victory.

“By winning this race tonight, we have saved the United States Senate from Chuck Schumer,” Daines said to his supporters late Tuesday night. “Now, elections, they’ll be over tonight. The TV ads will stop. Your mailboxes will be free again. And then it’s time to get together and come together as Montanans and as Americans to work to address the challenges we face.”

Daines' win is a crucial victory for Republicans. The Montana senate seat will greatly help determine which party will control the U.S. Senate. Republicans currently hold a slim 53-45 majority in the legislature and two independent senators caucus with the Democrats. Democrats need to flip four seats to take control and are hoping for wins in Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina and Iowa.

Republican Joni Ernst won Iowa, according to the Associated Press. Republicans David Perdue and Thom Thills currently lead the races in Georgia and North Carolina, respectively. Democrat Mark Kelley meanwhile holds the edge in Arizona.

President Donald Trump retained his support in Montana as he beat Democratic candidate Joe Biden by six points. Trump also won the historically red state in 2016 by 20 percentage points.

Previous Updates

Updated Nov. 3, 10:35 p.m.

Daines jumps ahead in senate race

Daines' lead continues to grow with 79% of the vote counted. He now possesses a 53.1% to 46.9% lead.

Updated Nov. 3, 10:02 p.m.

Incumbent Republican Daines jumped ahead of Democratic challenger Bullock and holds a 3% lead. Daines is up by 12,000 votes in Yellowstone County which will likely help his reelection.

Updated Nov. 3, 9:25 p.m.

Victory for Trump

President Donald Trump retains control over Montana after the Associated Press called the race with 56% of the votes accounted for. Trump beat Biden 51.8% to 45.9% and gained three electoral votes with the victory.

Trump won the race by a reported six points, less than the 20 points he beat Hillary Clinton by in the 2016 race.

Daines maintains a 1% lead over Bullock.

Updated Nov. 3, 8:56 p.m.

The Democrats gain some ground in both races with just over half of the votes reported

Bullock’s lead over Daines increased by 2.2% and now stands at 51.1% to 48.9%. Trump’s lead slightly lessened as he holds a 50.1% to 47.5% margin on Biden. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen has the remaining 2.4% of the votes.

Updated Nov. 3, 8:26 p.m.

Trump surpasses Biden

Trump has now taken the lead over Biden 50.9% to 46.9%, with 33% of the vote accounted for.

Bullock’s lead over Daines continues to lessen with the race, now standing at 50.8% for Bullock and 49.2% for Daines.

Updated Nov. 3, 8:00 p.m.

Biden’s lead lessens

Biden barely leads in the state’s presidential race, 49% to 48.8%.

Daines narrows the gap to Bullock, now leading 52.8% to 47.2% with 29% of the vote reported.

Updated Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m.

Biden has an early lead

Biden leads Trump by 20,000 votes, 58% to 48%, in early results.

Bullock leads Daines 60% to 40%, with 19% of the state’s vote accounted for. He also leads Daines by 31 points in Missoula County.

Updated Nov. 3, 5:14 p.m.

Ballot machines down

Two ballot machines in Butte-Silver Bow County “have gone down” Secretary of State Corey Stapleton said, slowing the count. A new machine is on the way and things should return to speed soon.

Cascade County will count ballots through the night.

Missoula County will stop counting ballots at midnight. Yellowstone County will also stop at midnight and resume counting at 7 a.m. on Wednesday.

Polls in Montana have indicated a competitive race for the state’s senate seat between Senator Steve Daines and Governor Steve Bullock. Senator Daines, a Republican, held a slight 1-3 point lead in the race for his reelection across various polls in mid-October, but Governor Bullock, the Democratic challenger, narrowly edged his opponent 48% to 47% in a poll by Montana State University - Billings.

The closeness in the polls was a testament to Bullock’s and Daines' histories in Montana government and their focus points in their respective positions.

Bullock has served as Montana’s governor since 2013 and as Attorney General of Montana from 2009 to 2013. As governor, Bullock oversaw an expansion of Medicaid in the state, increased protection for public lands and a ban of dark money from undisclosed sources in Montana senate elections. Despite Montana’s Republican preference, Bullock has remained popular as governor.

Daines, a businessman and former US House Representative for Montana’s At-Large Congressional District, held the senate seat since 2014. He currently serves on the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees and concentrates on protecting public lands and delivering resources to Native American communities in Montana.

Montana historically votes Republican in the presidential election, but frequently elects Democrats for other positions. Democrats held the Montana Senate seat for more than a decade prior to Daine’s win in 2014. The state’s other seat, currently held by Democrat Jon Tester, also generally goes Democrat: only two Republicans held the seat in the past century.

Campaigns for both Bullock and Daines came at a high cost. Together, both campaigns spent nearly $150 million on advertising through mail, broadcast and online ads, with nearly $90 million reported from more than three dozen outside groups. Bullock and the Democrats outspent Daines' and the Republicans by almost $10 million.

Daines' campaign aimed to present Bullock as a “corrupt politician” as he defended himself after the Bullock campaign exposed Daines' work in China.

A TV ad run by Bullock and the Democratic supporters accuses Daines of setting up factories and working for Procter & Gamble in China as the company laid off American workers. They also charge Daines with voting against efforts to crack down on unfair Chinese trade practices, despite him supporting the Trump administration’s tariffs against China.

Daines denied these allegations in his own TV ad. He says he is “fighting to provide tax credit for businesses that leave China.”

Daines also criticized Bullock for his Covid-19 task force, alleging he used relief funds to “reward his campaign donors” that recommended how to hand out $1.25 billion in federal Covid-19 aid. Several members of the group responded to Daines saying they did not receive payment for their recommendations, but Daines persisted that five members of the task force collected an average of $11,000.

While Bullock aimed to present himself as a supporter of gun rights and deemed Daines to be a threat to health care coverage granted under the Affordable Care Act. This was not enough to change the seat, though, as Montana remains split in the U.S. Senate.

Daines aimed to undermine Bullock’s position on gun rights for Montana citizens, but the extra $10 million Bullock spent on ads proved beneficial in earning him the senate seat.