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News Link • Voting and Elections

Liberals Wanted a Fight in Montana. Democratic Leaders Saw a Lost Cause.

• By JONATHAN MARTIN and ALEXANDER BURNS

The Democratic defeat in a hard-fought special House election in Montana on Thursday highlighted the practical limitations on liberal opposition to President Trump and exposed a deepening rift between cautious party leaders, who want to pick their shots in battling for control of Congress in 2018, and more militant grass-roots activists who want to fight the Republicans everywhere.

Rob Quist, the Democratic nominee in Montana, staked his campaign on the Republican health care bill, but he still lost by six percentage points, even after his Republican opponent for the state's lone House seat, Greg Gianforte, was charged with assaulting a reporter on the eve of the election.

The margin in this race was relatively small in a state that Mr. Trump carried by more than 20 percentage points last year. But Mr. Quist's defeat disappointed grass-roots Democrats who financed nearly his entire campaign while the national party declined to spend heavily on what it considered, from the outset, an all-but-lost cause in daunting political territory.

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