HELENA — U.S. Sen. Jon Tester gave President Donald Trump a tongue-in-cheek welcome to Montana on Thursday by taking out a full-page ad in more than a dozen newspapers thanking him for signing 16 bills the Democrat sponsored or co-sponsored.
Trump was scheduled to hold a rally in the city of Great Falls to campaign for Tester’s Republican challenger, State Auditor Matt Rosendale. The president has made the Montana Senate race a priority after he blamed Tester for derailing the nomination of his Veterans Affairs nominee, White House physician Ronny Jackson.
Tester’s ad, which ran in the Great Falls Tribune and in newspapers across rural northern and eastern Montana, sought to undermine the president’s efforts to boost Rosendale by pointing out that he and the president agree on several issues.
“Welcome to Montana, and thank you President Trump for supporting Jon’s legislation to help veterans and first responders, hold the VA accountable, and get rid of waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government,” the ad read.
The Tester campaign also planned a statewide radio ad campaign to run through the weekend touting his bills that Trump has signed.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee in a statement called Tester’s ads a “pitiful” effort to paint himself as a Trump ally before the rally.
Tester is one of 10 Senate Democrats running for re-election in states that Trump won in the 2016 election. Trump singled out Tester in April, saying the farmer from Big Sandy “will have a big price to pay” for releasing allegations against VA nominee Jackson that included drunkenness, overprescribing medication and fostering a hostile work environment. Jackson denied the claims but withdrew his nomination.
Montana is the latest stop on Trump’s midterm campaign tour, designed to boost Republicans as well as tout his first 18 months in office. He recently made a similar trip to North Dakota and is expected to keep traveling throughout the summer.
In Great Falls, Trump planned to promote his record on the economy and national security, said a person familiar with the president’s plans, adding that Trump would stress his recent moves on immigration and foreign policy as well as the low unemployment rate. The person was not authorized to discuss the plans publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The president also was expected to paint Tester as an “obstructionist” and embrace Rosendale as a better fit for the state that he won by 20 points.
The visit comes less than two weeks after his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., campaigned for Rosendale in the city of Billings.
Rosendale, who is seeking to deny Tester a third term and give Montana an all-Republican congressional delegation, said Trump has focused on the race because of Tester’s “liberal obstruction.”
Montana, a purple state that elects both Republicans and Democrats to statewide offices, strongly supported Trump in the 2016 election, leading both candidates to compete for Trump supporters. Rosendale said he’ll back Trump’s agenda, while Tester said he’ll support the president when it’s in the state’s interests and oppose him when it’s not.
Tester planned to spend Thursday listening to farmers’ and business owners’ concerns about Trump’s import tariffs and was expected to be driving back to his farm when the president spoke, spokeswoman Marnee Banks said.
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