One of the rougher Senate races of 2012 is being waged by two Montana men built for rough work, incumbent Democratic Sen. John Tester and his GOP challenger, Denny Rehberg, who currently represents Montana's at-large district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tester's incumbent muscles have been demonstrated in the fundraising advantage he's enjoyed over the course of the campaign -- an advantage that Rehberg has criticized, noting that Tester draws a lot of campaign cash from Wall Street banks. That line of critique has been countered by Tester supporters, who make note of the lavish funds that have been furnished to Rehberg by oil and energy concerns. The Center For Responsive Politics has a list of the key contributors to each campaign that makes the contrast crystal clear.
The two men have participated in a series of 'testy' debates, with Tester hitting Rehberg for his career as a lobbyist and for a lawsuit he filed against the Billings, Mont., fire department (a suit he subsequently dropped). Rehberg has given back as good as he's gotten, mainly attacking Tester for supporting Obamacare and the 2009 stimulus.
In fact, what makes the Montana race interesting is how each candidate has distanced himself from the top of their respective party's ticket. Obama has no shot at winning Montana's electoral votes, which means Tester has to hope for a split ticket on Election Night. So Tester has gone out of his way to distance himself from the Obama administration, releasing ads that tout Tester as someone who "took on the Obama administration" and "voted against both the Wall Street and auto bailouts."
But Rehberg has, at times, stood apart from his party's standard-bearer, most notably in the two votes he cast against Paul Ryan's budget, sizing it up as a plan that would negatively affect seniors by hurting the Medicare program.
This race is heading for a down-to-the-wire finish. As of this writing, the HuffPost Pollster model has Tester clinging to a thin 46.8 percent to 45.7 percent lead.