Tester wins third Senate term in Montana

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSome Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party Three GOP Senate candidates, NRA may have illegally coordinated ads: report Immigration is pressure point for both sides in shutdown showdown MORE (D-Mont.) is the projected winner in Montana, surviving a race that tightened in the final weeks amid heavy campaigning by President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' Brown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Pence on border wall: Trump won't be ‘deterred’ by Dem ‘obstruction’ MORE and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpCNN's Gergen: Trump discouraging next generation from civil service The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government Trump shares article blasting federal workers, calling for long shutdown 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 Kavanaugh5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony MSNBC anchor speculates Trump has something 'pretty extreme' on Graham Five things to watch during Barr’s confirmation hearing MORE’s confirmation fight. 

Last week he also questioned Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBrown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Gillibrand announces exploratory committee to run for president on Colbert Native American group denounces Trump for using Wounded Knee in attack against Warren 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Dem chair meets Trump health chief on drug prices | Trump officials sued over new Kentucky Medicaid work rules | Democrats vow to lift ban on federal funds for abortions We can’t tackle climate change if we ignore the main polluter — transportation Hoyer introducing legislation to block Trump from lifting sanctions on Russian companies 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' On The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (Calif.), California Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersMaxine Waters meets with CBS News representatives over lack of black 2020 reporters Ocasio-Cortez to join House panel overseeing financial sector On The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (D) and “Crying Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Dem chair meets Trump health chief on drug prices | Trump officials sued over new Kentucky Medicaid work rules | Democrats vow to lift ban on federal funds for abortions We can’t tackle climate change if we ignore the main polluter — transportation Hoyer introducing legislation to block Trump from lifting sanctions on Russian companies 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.