On Wednesday, the Montana Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate, Rick Breckenridge, dropped out of the race and endorsed GOP candidate Matt Rosendale, the state’s Insurance Commissioner, who is running against incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester, who has served as the state’s senator since 2006.
Breckenridge throwing his support to Rosendale may turn the race in the GOP candidate’s favor; the most recent poll taken in Montana, the Gravis poll, which was conducted between October 24 and October 26, found Tester leading Rosendale 48%-45%, with 7% of the voters undecided. A previous poll, the Montana State University Billings poll, conducted between October 8 and October 13, found Tester with a 47%-38% lead over Rosendale.
But two September polls found the race very close; the Montana Television Network-Montana State University poll found Tester leading 46%-43%, while a CBS/YouGov poll found Tester leading by an even thinner margin, 47%-45%.
The Helena Independent Record reported that Breckenridge threw his support behind Rosendale after an anonymous group sent an election mailer that was designed to weaken conservatives’ support for Rosendale. The Independent Record wrote:
Breckenridge said in an interview that he doesn't know the source of the mailer, which promoted him as a "true conservative" and claimed that Rosendale supports using drones to spy on private citizens. He said it appeared to be an attempt by so-called dark money groups to influence Montana's election and that he's decided Rosendale is the best candidate to stop such efforts.
Breckenridge stated, "The reality is I'm only going to get 3 or 4 percent of the vote, and he (Rosendale) has the character to combat this issue. I'm standing in unity and solidarity with Matt to combat dark money in politics."
Politico reported, “Though Tester has a narrow lead, the race is statistically tied, according to new Republican polling viewed by Politico. Republicans think a late surge of GOP enthusiasm tied to Trump’s visit this coming weekend could produce a major upset of a two-term incumbent who has never cleared 50 percent of the vote.”
President Trump has been angry with Tester for some time; last spring Tester helped allegations become public that questioned the management actions of Ronny Jackson, the Navy rear admiral and former Trump military physician whom Trump had nominated to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Jackson ultimately declined the nomination. After that, Trump accused Tester of pushing false allegations against Jackson. Trump said Tester should not be a senator, tweeting, “The Secret Service is unable to confirm (in fact they deny) any of the phony Democrat charges which have absolutely devastated the wonderful Jackson family. Tester should resign.”
On Wednesday, The Hill reported, “Tester, who appeared to be cruising to reelection a few months ago, now finds himself in a dogfight, and he warned supporters at a rally in Butte, a hardscrabble mining town, that only a handful of votes could decide the race. … The race has tightened considerably since the fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which Montana Republicans say has energized their base.”