On the eve of the midterm election, Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in the Flathead on Monday in a final effort to push Republican State Auditor Matt Rosendale over the top in his effort to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.
The vice president was joined by Sens. Steve Daines, R-Montana, Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, as well as Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte at a rally held in a hangar at Glacier Park International Airport. While Gianforte finds himself in an increasingly tight race against Democrat Kathleen Williams, he was only briefly mentioned during the rally as Pence and others focused on the race between Rosendale and Tester that, along with a handful of other closely watched Senate races, could determine who controls the upper chamber.
“Matt Rosendale will stand with this president and he will always put Montana and America first,” Pence said. “A vote for Jon Tester is a vote for the liberal agenda.”
Monday’s visit to Kalispell marked Pence’s third trip to Montana this year to stump for Rosendale. President Donald Trump has made four visits to Montana in just four months, most recently on Saturday in Bozeman. The visit meant that Trump had visited Montana more than any other sitting president.
Trump has taken a keen interest in unseating Tester. During his visit to Missoula on Oct. 18, the president revealed that he was campaigning against Tester because of his role in derailing the nomination of former White House doctor Adm. Ronny Jackson for Veterans Affairs secretary. Jackson withdrew his name from consideration earlier this year after facing questions about his ethics and preparedness for the job.
“I can never forget what Jon Tester did to a man that is of the highest quality,” Trump said. “What he did was unfair. It was vicious.”
For his part, Tester noted that Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, co-signed a letter with the senator calling for an investigation into Jackson. When asked to respond to questions regarding the allegations, Jackson was silent, Tester said, forcing the committee to release the reports.
On Monday, Pence and others tried to tie Tester to the more liberal wing of his party. Graham specifically called out Tester for not supporting Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his recent confirmation.
“Jon Tester can go back to ranching or whatever it is he does,” Graham said.
Pence also called out Tester, but mostly stuck to national issues he knew would get a response from the hundreds of supporters who gathered to hear him speak, including abortion and illegal immigration. Pence praised Trump for sending troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to halt a caravan of migrants from Central America – though they are still hundreds of miles from the Rio Grande.
“We have put the caravan on notice and we are building the wall,” Pence said to loud cheers.
Pence pleaded with attendees to vote on Nov. 6 and to bring as many friends with them as possible to polling places, in hopes of stopping Democratic gains in the House and Senate.
“The Democrats’ blue wave is going to hit a giant red wall here in Montana,” Pence said.
Pence’s visit marked the first time a sitting vice president has ventured to Northwest Montana in more than a decade. In 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney campaigned in Whitefish for Sen. Conrad Burns. Prior to that, in 1997, Vice President Al Gore visited Glacier National Park — and even hiked to Grinnell Glacier — to raise awareness about climate change.