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Trump will seek Rally support for Montana candidate

HELENA, Mont.-

Jerry Swick,

an army veteran who currently resides in this mountain enclave, plans to vote this fall to keep Democratic Senator Jon Tester in Congress. He just does not know how he would say that to the president

Donald Trump,

for whom Mr. Swick voted in 2016.

Mr. Trump will organize a campaign rally at Big Sky Country on Thursday in an effort to corner his supporters behind

Matt Rosendale,

the Republican state auditor who hopes to nullify Mr. Tester's hopes for a third term.

"I think if Trump approached me and asked me to vote for Rosendale, I would say:" Yes, of course, "he said. Mr. Swick, who in the 1970s served in the Army Signal Corps. "But then I would go and vote for Tester."

Mr. The Trump and Senate Democrats in the states the president won in 2016 will fight voters like Swick, who still enthusiastically support the president, but may decide to keep their current Democrats in Washington. Mr. Tester is one of 10 Senate Democrats on reelection this year in the states where Trump defeats the Democratic candidate

Hillary Clinton.

Republicans currently hold 51 seats in the Senate, compared to 49 seats controlled by Democrats. The GOP aims to eliminate some of the Democrats from Trump's state to compensate for the losses they experience in November in order to protect or expand their caucus. Of the 10 Democrats in the Red State, four are classified by Cook Political Report as "thrown"; three seats occupied by republicans are classified in the same way. Mr. Tester's race is qualified as "likely" to remain in the Democratic column.

Many of these vulnerable Democrats plan to hold their seats in the Senate by positioning themselves as champions of their local constituencies instead of hawking progressive items on the agenda such as Medicare – for everything or committing to "resist" Mr. Trump's presidency.

For Mr. Tester, that means focusing on public land policy and offering appeals to the veteran population of Montana, one of the largest in the country. It also means highlighting what Democrats say is perhaps Mr. Tester's greatest asset: his reputation as a "true Montanan" who three years ago lost three fingers at a meat grinder while working on his 1,800-acre farm in Big Sandy, home of less than 600 residents.

On Tuesday, Mr. Tester was plowing peas in a field where he will start planting wheat later this year or in the spring. A third-generation farmer, normally works 12 hours a day in Big Sandy between voting in Washington and traveling through this vast state to meet with voters.

A "real Montanan," he said, is someone who is "not false," someone who is what he is. "

Republicans argue that no matter how much incumbent Democrats appeal to their states, Mr. Trump He is a stronger asset in parts of the country such as Montana, Mr. Trump got a margin of 20 points over Mrs. Clinton in Montana, and Republicans expect Trump to choose Democratic incumbents like Mr. Tester as obstructionists. 19659005] "He really has not supported the president," Chairman of the Republican Party of Montana

Debra Lamm

said of Mr. Tester. "So I think the tides have turned against him."

Mr. Tester has voted against legislation pushed by the White House, such as the GOP tax law and efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Tester also voted against Justice

Neil Gorsuch & # 39; s

nomination to the Supreme Court and was instrumental in sinking the nomination of Mr. Trump

Dr. Ronny Jackson

to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"It shows the Republicans who could have voted for Tester in past elections that he's not really with us," said a Republican operative who works to elect Republicans in November. "Just consider the president's brand in a state like Montana."

Mr. Tester in the coming months will face another politically risky vote on Mr. Trump's candidate to succeed the withdrawal of the Supreme Court.

Anthony Kennedy

But that vote also presents a risky option for the White House, as the president woos the Democratic senators of the states he won, hoping to get them out of the party division and take his candidate to the Supreme Court.

When Mr. Trump visits Great Falls on Thursday, he is expected to bring Mr. Rosendale onstage and portrays him as vital to advancing the Make America Great Again agenda that dragged Mr. Trump to the White House.

"It will be interesting to see what he does talk about," Mr. Tester said of the president's upcoming visit. When asked if he would be watching the speech, the senator responded: "Hell, no," and added that after participating in a round table on Thursday, he would probably be busy on his tractor.

"I doubt that Rosendale can change the oil on a tractor," said Mr. Tester.

Democrats have named Mr. Rosendale, who is originally from Baltimore, as "Maryland Matt" in attack notices, an effort to juxtapose his background with Mr. Tester's roots in the state. Mr. Rosendale said the strategy is a departure from Mr. Tester's opposition to many cornerstones of Trump's agenda.

"If people like the agenda the president has presented, then clearly … they're going to be a lot. It's more likely to become a reality with Matt Rosendale sitting in the US Senate than with Jon Tester, "Rosendale said in an interview.

At his farm on Tuesday, Mr. Tester reflected on his April decision to launch a series of staggering accusations against Dr. Jackson, the president's candidate to lead the VA who withdrew from consideration. Dr. Jackson denied accusations that he crashed a government car after drinking alcohol, and generously dispensed prescription medications, including opiate painkillers and sleeping medications.

Mr. Tester, who was criticized by the White House before Dr. Jackson retired, does not regret it.

"Bring him," he said. "I did my constitutional duty on Ronny Jackson."

The White House said its own document review found no evidence to support two central accusations that condemned Dr. Jackson's candidacy, and Trump asked the senator to resign. "The great people of Montana will not tolerate this type of defamation when talking about a great human being," the president tweeted during the April clash.

Mr. Tester's allies say the exposure of accusations against Dr. Jackson resonates in Montana by putting the state veterans above Trump.

"I think the key is always to focus on the issues that are most important to your state," he said.

Senator Doug Jones

(D., Ala.), Who won his seat in an altercation in the December special elections. Mr. Jones has sent fundraising emails on behalf of Mr. Tester, whom Mr. Jones called "one of my favorites" in the Senate.

"I think Jon wanted to make sure that whoever was the next VA boss was someone who was qualified and not just for a friendship or whatever with the president," Jones said.

Write to Joshua Jamerson at joshua.jamerson@wsj.com


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