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The single county to watch in Montana’s special election

If you’re only watching one county in Thursday’s special election for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat, it should be Lake County.

Wrapping around the base of Flathead Lake in rural northwest Montana, the county includes just three cities and towns, in addition to the Flathead Indian reservation and other rural areas. But this unassuming rural Montana area has had nearly perfect accuracy in predicting Montana’s federal and gubernatorial statewide elections over the past two decades.

Republican multi-millionaire tech executive Greg Gianforte is slated to face off against Democratic populist singer-songwriter Rob Quist in this GOP-leaning U.S. House district on Thursday, after the seat was vacated by now-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

ABC News
PHOTO: Lake County, Montana

Republicans have held this U.S. House seat for the last two decades and are expected to hold onto it this week, but Montana has been known to split their tickets: they have a sitting Democratic governor and U.S. senator. And even though President Donald Trump won the state by more than 20 percentage points, it’s incumbent Democratic governor also won re-election in November.

But in November, Lake County pinpointed both candidates’ support in both races within one percentage point. In fact, only once since 1996 has the county failed to vote with the winner of the statewide vote, according to an ABC News analysis of data from The Associated Press and the Montana Secretary of State.

The county did not match the statewide vote in the 2008 presidential race — the only mismatch in federal or gubernatorial races in the last two decades — siding with former President Barack Obama by a 49-47 percent margin while the overall state voted for Sen. John McCain by a 50-47 percent margin. The next closest election it missed? The U.S. Senate race in 1996.

Compare for yourself: Here’s a look at each race over the last two decades.

Not only has Lake County called the correct winner with a shocking…

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