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Tester wins third Senate term in Montana

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterAmericans for Prosperity launches campaign targeting six Democrats to oppose ending filibuster Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform MORE (D-Mont.) is the projected winner in Montana, surviving a race that tightened in the final weeks amid heavy campaigning by President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.Don TrumpTrump Jr. shares edited video showing father knocking Biden down with golf ball Trump: 'I can't imagine' any Republican would beat me in 2024 primary if I run Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE

Tester, a third-generation farmer from north central Montana, ran on his record and did not invite any prominent Democratic politicians to campaign for him in an effort to keep the focus on him and his opponent, Matt Rosendale, a Maryland transplant who moved to the state in 2002.  

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He criticized Rosendale, Montana's auditor, as an “Easterner” funded by groups from outside the state who did not understand the issues dear to Montanans, such as the preservation of public lands. 

“This is a race between myself and Matt Rosendale, make no mistake about it. Matt Rosendale doesn’t know what the hell is going on in Montana. That’s why he doesn’t talk about the issues he believes in, because he doesn’t know them,” Tester told The Hill in an interview last week.

Tester ran on his record of helping veterans as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and he regularly touted the bills he helped pass, such as the VA Mission Act, which Trump signed into law in June. 

He also made an effort to distance himself from prominent Democrats in Washington and criticized colleagues for their handling of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughConservative justices split in ruling for immigrant fighting deportation Supreme Court weighs whether to limit issuance of exemptions to biofuel blending requirements The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP makes infrastructure play; Senate passes Asian hate crimes bill MORE’s confirmation fight. 

Last week he also questioned Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDebate over ICBMs: Will 'defund our defenses' be next? Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders Hillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' MORE’s (D-Mass.) use of DNA test results to claim Native American heritage. 

Native Americans make up between 7 percent and 9 percent of the state’s population, and Tester predicted they would make the difference in the race while campaigning on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Northern Montana last week.

Tribal leaders said they anticipated 80 percent turnout in their communities, which were expected to vote overwhelmingly in favor of Tester. 

The president visited Montana twice in the final weeks of the campaign in an effort to nationalize the race and warned that Tester would be a reliable vote for Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE (N.Y.). 

Hundreds of people lined up for hours withstanding chilly weather in Belgrade, Mont., to see Trump speak at a massive rally the Saturday before Election Day. 

Trump told his supporters that Tester would be in “lockstep” with House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July MORE (Calif.), California Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden address to Congress will dominate busy week Maxine Waters: Judge in Chauvin trial who criticized her was 'angry' GOP, Democrats grapple with post-Chauvin trial world MORE (D) and “Crying Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE.”

“Remember Tester voted against your tax cuts,” he said.

Trump Jr. also toured the state the weekend before Halloween, drawing enthusiastic crowds in Butte, Helena and Kalispell. 

For the Trumps, the Montana race became personal after Tester played a leading role in sinking the nomination of Navy Adm. Ronny Jackson to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Trump Jr. called Tester a “piece of garbage” at a rally in Helena because of the way he treated Jackson. 

Tester raised substantially more money than Rosendale, collecting more than $19 million in his Senate fund compared, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Rosendale raised just over $5 million, according to the FEC. 

Outside groups spent nearly $22 million to help Tester and just under $21 million to help Rosendale. 

The race narrowed after the Senate’s divisive debate over Kavanaugh, whom Tester opposed.

While campaigning last week, however, he criticized his colleagues for mishandling allegations that the judge sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were both in high school, an allegation Kavanaugh denied.

“It was botched from the beginning. It was absolutely botched. I don’t think it helped it Ms. Ford, I don’t think it helped Kavanaugh,” Tester told The Hill. 

Tester made himself available to the press and constituents during the final week of the campaign while Rosendale mostly eschewed press interviews. 

As a result, Tester appeared to be running a folksy grass-roots operation while Rosendale appeared scripted and coordinated with high-profile GOP surrogates who visited from Washington. 

Tester held an average lead of 3 points heading into Election Day but the question was whether Trump, who carried Montana by 20 points in 2016, would be able to energize his base enough to throw out the 12-year incumbent. 

Instead, Tester was able to create enough distance between himself and party leaders to win.