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Mike Pence touts Brett Kavanaugh, criticizes Jon Tester at Montana rally

October 3, 2018

Republicans are looking to the confirmation battle over Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to break open the skin-tight race for Montana Senate.

At a small rally Tuesday in Bozeman, Vice President Mike Pence criticized Sen. Jon Tester, the Democratic incumbent, for his opposition to Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

“President Trump and I believe that Judge Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed,” said Mr. Pence to enthusiastic cheers.

Republican Matt Rosendale, the state auditor, is locked in a statistical tie with Mr. Tester, the two-term senator with a history of defying the odds by defeating Republicans in the red-tilting state.

Clearly Mr. Rosendale, the state auditor, sees the Kavanaugh confirmation as a winning issue. He has hammered Mr. Tester for not only refusing to support the nominee but also failing to meet with him prior to the Senate hearings.

“Jon Tester has voted with Obama for his Supreme Court justices 100 percent of the time,” Mr. Rosendale told the Bozeman audience. “He voted against [Justice] Neil Gorsuch, and then when it came time to give Judge Kavanaugh a fair hearing, he wouldn’t even meet with him.”

Mr. Tester has explained that he was unable to arrange a meeting with Judge Kavanaugh due to scheduling conflicts, although he initially said the White House canceled a meeting. His office later said that he misspoke.

Even without a meeting, Mr. Tester announced Friday he would vote against the nominee, citing concerns about the PATRIOT Act.

“I have concerns that Judge Kavanaugh defended the PATRIOT Act instead of Montana’s privacy,” Mr. Tester said in a statement. “I have concerns about his support for more dark money in politics. I have concerns about who he believes is in charge of making personal health decisions. And I have deep concerns about the allegations of sexual assault against Judge Kavanaugh.”

At the rally, Mr. Rosendale accused the senator of failing to take his advise-and-consent responsibilities seriously.

“Not only would he not meet with him, but then he lied and said the White House canceled his appointment,” said Mr. Rosendale. “The man didn’t even take the time to exercise one of the most important jobs that a senator has, which is to confirm a United States Supreme Court justice.”

A WPA Intelligence poll released Aug. 28 found that 71 percent of Montana voters surveyed support Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

That poll was taken before Christine Blasey Ford accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while they were in high school, which he has denied.

Even so, Republicans clearly believe that most Montanans still want to see the Senate approve his nomination.

A CBS/YouGov poll released Sept. 16 found Mr. Tester with a slim 47-45 lead over Mr. Rosendale, within the margin of error.

Mr. Trump carried the state in 2016 by 20 points. He and other administration officials such as Mr. Pence and Donald Trump Jr. have made several appearances opposing Mr. Tester’s re-election bid.

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