Tester wins third Senate term in Montana

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Overnight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds 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 TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump Jr. slams Republican committee chairman: 'Too weak to stand up to the Democrats' #TrumpTantrum spreads on Twitter after impromptu press conference Trump family members will join state visit to UK 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 KavanaughMurkowski celebrates birthday with electric scooter ride Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE’s confirmation fight. 

Last week he also questioned Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation 2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign 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 SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' 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 PelosiPelosi uses Trump to her advantage Fake Pelosi video sparks fears for campaigns Trump goes scorched earth against impeachment talk MORE (Calif.), California Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersTrump appeals order siding with House Democrats bank subpoenas Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties Exclusive: Carson seeks to clean up testimony on protections for homeless transgender people MORE (D) and “Crying Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' 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.