The race to be the next Governor of Montana looks like a toss up, with the potential candidates to replace Brian Schweitzer largely unknown to voters in the state.
You would usually expect an open seat in a Republican leaning state to be leaning toward the Republicans but Schweitzer's continued popularity is helping Democratic prospects for retaining the office. 52% of voters approve of the job he's doing to 38% who disapprove. He's universally beloved by Democrats (an 88% approval rating) and the 26% of GOP voters who think he's doing a good job represents an unusual level of crossover support.
Primary polling PPP will release next week finds that former Congressman Rick Hill is the early front runner for the Republican nomination, while Attorney General Steve Bullock and Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger are the top choices on the Democratic side. Either of those match ups would start out basically as a tie: Hill leads Bullock 39-37 and leads Bohlinger 40-39. Bohlinger and Bullock both have small leads over Hill with independents, but they get only 8% and 7% of the Republican vote respectively. They'd probably need more crossover support than that in the GOP leaning state to win next fall.
Hill, Bohlinger, and Bullock are the early front runners but none of them are terribly well known, which leaves the race pretty wide open. Only Bohlinger is known to a majority of voters in the state and it's a bare majority- 52% have an opinion about him. 46% are familiar enough with Bullock to have an opinion and that number is 45% for Hill.
We included three other candidates in the general election part of our poll but it basically boils down to the better known Democrats leading the lesser known Republicans, the lesser known Republicans leading the lesser known Democrat, and unsurprisingly the better known Republican leading the lesser known Democrat. It's pretty much all name recognition at this point and the race really hasn't developed.
Full results here