Historically, Montana is a swing state of cross-ticket voters who tend to fill elected offices with individuals from both parties. Through the mid-20th century, the state had a tradition of "sending the liberals to Washington and the conservatives to Helena." However, beginning in the 1980s, the pattern flipped, with voters more likely to elect conservatives to federal offices. There have also been long-term shifts of party control. During the 1970s, the state was dominated by the Democratic Party, with Democratic governors for a 20-year period, and a Democratic majority of both the national congressional delegation and during many sessions of the state legislature. This pattern shifted, beginning with the 1988 election, when Montana elected a Republican governor and sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate for the first time since the 1940s. This shift continued with the reapportionment of the state's legislative districts that took effect in 1994, when the Republican Party took control of both chambers of the state legislature, consolidating a Republican party dominance that lasted until 2004.
In presidential elections, Montana was long classified as a swing state, though in recent years, Montana has been classified as a Republican-leaning state, as the state supported Republican presidential candidates in every election from 1996 to the present. The state last supported a Democrat for president in 1992, when Bill Clinton won a plurality victory. Overall, since 1889 the state has voted for Democratic governors 60 percent of the time and Democratic presidents 40 percent of the time, with these numbers being 40/60 for Republican candidates. In the 2008 presidential election, Montana was considered a swing state and was ultimately won by Republican John McCain, albeit by a narrow margin of two percent.
However, at the state level, the pattern of split ticket voting and divided government holds. Democrats currently hold both U.S. Senate seats, as well as four of the five statewide offices (Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Auditor). The Legislative branch had split party control between the house and senate most years between 2004 and 2010, when the mid-term elections returned both branches to Republican control. The state Senate is, as of 2010, controlled by the Republicans 28 to 22, and the State House of Representatives at 68 to 32.
Montana is an Alcoholic beverage control state.Further information: Political party strength in Montana and Elections in Montana
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