The nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report shifted its rating of the 2024 race for Sen. Jon Tester’s (D-Mont.) seat from “lean Democrat” to a “toss up” Thursday.
“Three-term Sen. Jon Tester may well be Democrats’ strongest incumbent this cycle — he still enjoys an approval rating around 60 percent — but the 67-year-old has the toughest uphill climb of any incumbent Democrat, at least purely by the numbers,” wrote Jessica Taylor, senate and governors editor for Cook Political Report.
“Besides Tester’s proven ability to overcome the GOP lean of the state (he ran seven points ahead of then-President Barack Obama in 2012), the main reason we started this race in Lean Democrat was the prospect of a looming, bruising Republican primary that could divide the party, drain resources and produce a weaker Republican candidate,” she continued. “Moreover, outrunning Biden in a state where his loss margin could be even wider goes against recent political trends.”
Taylor noted that while there’s still the potential for a messy GOP primary between Republican candidates Tim Sheehy and Rep. Matt Rosendale (Mont.), as Rosendale has not taken himself out of the running for a possible primary run, there are signs that key Republicans in the state and nationally are coalescing around Sheehy.
She also noted several polls show Sheehy outperforming Rosendale in a primary match-up.
Tester’s campaign brushed off the race ratings change.
“Jon’s no stranger to tough fights, and this election will be no different,” said campaign manager Shelbi Dantic in a statement, which encouraged supporters to go his campaign website.
Meanwhile, Republicans seized on the ratings change as a critical boost.
“Jon Tester is in for the race of his life because of his unethical behavior and lockstep support for Joe Biden’s disastrous agenda,” Maggie Abboud, a spokeswoman for the Senate GOP campaign arm, said in a statement.
Sheehy’s campaign also touted the ratings change in an email, saying “Experts nationwide are taking notice of Tim Sheehy’s strong candidacy, rise in the polls, and profile that appeals to both primary voters and the general electorate.”
Senate Democrats are defending an increasingly challenging map after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced earlier this month that he would not be seeking reelection.
Tester and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) are the only two red-state Democrats running for reelection, marking two critical races Democrats need to win if they have any hope of holding onto the upper chamber.
Read more from the original publication HERE.