Montana businessman Troy Downing is eyeing a Republican challenge to Democratic Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act Democrats struggle to gain steam on Biden spending plan The Hill's 12:30 Report: Debt ceiling fight punted to December MORE and has been making the rounds in Washington, including a visit to the White House.
But Downing appears to have been an outspoken critic of President Trump on social media throughout the 2016 election, according to screenshots of tweets provided to The Hill by Democratic opposition research group American Bridge.
Those past positions could complicate Downing's attempts to reach out to the GOP faithful in a state Trump won by 20 points.
Downing's Twitter account is now private, and internet archiving tools don't include his once-public tweets from that period.
On Sept. 7, 2015, Downing tweeted that Trump “cracks me up” and said that he wasn’t electable.
Months later, he tweeted on March 3, 2016 that Trump is “either a liar or an idiot.” And on Aug. 3, 2016, he tweeted about a Trump robocall and used the hashtag #NeverTrumpNeverHillary, a reference to the "#NeverTrump" movement of Republicans who rejected their party's nominee.
Downing, an Air Force veteran, visited Washington, D.C. in late April to discuss a potential Senate bid with a schedule that included a visit to the White House, a source with knowledge of the meeting confirmed to The Hill.
The New York Times first reported on Downing's trip to D.C.
Downing, who didn't respond to requests for comment, is the CEO of AC Self Storage Solutions in California.
A Republican source in Montana said that the tweets could potentially be an issue for Downing, although that will depend on whether the other primary candidates supported Trump during the presidential campaign.
“That could be something that ends up being a dividing thing,” the GOP source said, adding that it could be a way to show contrast between two Senate contenders.
Tester faces a tough reelection race in 2018, as one of 10 Democratic incumbents up in a state won by Trump last year. The Montana Democrat has served since 2007, despite representing a deep-red state.
Republicans lost their top potential Tester challenger early this year when Trump nominated then-Rep. Ryan Zinke to serve as Interior secretary.
State Sen. Albert Olszewski (R) is the first declared challenger in the race, while the list of other potential primary candidates includes state Attorney General Tim Fox and state Auditor Matthew Rosendale.