Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats' filibuster gambit unravels Biden: 'I don't know whether we can get this done' Biden to huddle with Senate Democrats as voting bill on brink of defeat MORE (D-Mont.) is the projected winner in Montana, surviving a race that tightened in the final weeks amid heavy campaigning by President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.Don TrumpRittenhouse to speak at Turning Point USA event White House calls Jan. 6 text revelations 'disappointing' Court orders release of some redacted passages of Mueller report 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.
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 KavanaughVoting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities Supreme Court agrees to hear case on HS coach's suspension over on-field prayers The Supreme Court, vaccination and government by Fox News MORE’s confirmation fight.
Last week he also questioned Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness We are America's independent contractors, and we are terrified Fed's Brainard faces GOP pressure on climate stances 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 SchumerRomney: I never got a call from White House to discuss voting rights Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Joe Biden's disastrous 48 hours 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 PelosiGOP senator knocks Biden for 'spreading things that are untrue' in voting rights speech Sen. Ron Johnson: Straight from the horse's mouth Clyburn says he's worried about losing House, 'losing this democracy' MORE (Calif.), California Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersRemedying injustice for the wrongfully convicted does not end when they are released McCarthy says he'll strip Dems of committee slots if GOP wins House A presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day MORE (D) and “Crying Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerRomney: I never got a call from White House to discuss voting rights Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Joe Biden's disastrous 48 hours 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.