A surge by the libertarian Senate candidate Dan Cox in the Montana Senate race proved to be the undoing of GOP congressman Denny Rehberg as incumbent Democrat Jon Tester was able to hang on to win.
Montana Sen. Jon Tester has defeated Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg to win a second term — another Democratic Senate triumph in a conservative-leaning state.
With 84 percent of precincts reporting, Tester had 48.8 percent to 44.7 percent for Rehberg. Libertarian Dan Cox, who risked siphoning critical votes mostly from Rehberg, was winning 6.5 percent of the vote.
The race was close from start to finish, and with scant public polling handicappers had a tough time predicting who would come out on top. Though Montana’s voter registration favors Republicans, the state hasn’t shied from electing Democrats to statewide office.
And Tester — who has an easy way with voters, favoring the title “farmer” over “senator” — was seen as simply the more likeable candidate.
While waiting for the additional returns to roll in, Tester thanked a crowd of his supporters who had gathered in Great Falls around 4 a.m. ET, aides said.
“Thank you for fighting with me — for Montana values,” Tester said. “For responsibility, for accountability and for our freedom. No matter what happens, your hard work is a testament to the power we have as people to decide the direction of our country.”
Rehberg ran a good race, but Tester, like many vulnerable Democratic incumbents, was able to run away from Obama by touting their supposed “independence” from the White House. Also like most Democratic Senate candidates, Tester didn’t lack for funds. Super Pacs for both sides blanketed the state with attack ads for months.
The Libertarian party candidate Cox may end up getting more than 6% of the vote, which is not unusual in “Leave me the hell alone” conservative Montana. No doubt, most of those votes would have gone to Rehberg otherwise.