From NBC's Kevin Hurd
A new poll out today from Montana is a reminder of just how tight a contest the U.S. Senate race in Big Sky Country could be in 2012.
Incumbent Sen. John Tester (D) is in a statistical dead heat with at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg (R), with a slight 46%-45% edge in a Billings Gazette poll conducted by Mason-Dixon. The Montana Senate race is ranked No. 3 on First Read’s Top 10 Takeovers.
"Grass-roots organization and working on the ground will certainly be important,” Brad Coker, president of Mason-Dixon, told the Gazette. “It's one of the few races you'll see where both candidates already have a built-in statewide organization."
Both candidates have near-unanimous support from their respective parties. So, that 9% of undecideds are going to be crucial. "Independents make up a sizable voting bloc in Montana,” the Billings Gazette writes, “and their support can often spell the difference between victory and defeat in a close election."
Among independents, Tester got 49% to Rehberg’s 37%.
In 2006, Tester won narrowly over a flawed candidate. He defeated Conrad Burns (R) 49%-48%.
The poll of 625 registered voters was conducted last week and has a +/- 4% margin of error.