Instead, Tester touts his independence on issues such as wolves, big business bailouts, energy development important in the booming oil fields in eastern Montana, and proposed administration agricultural rules considered laughable by many family farmers. He says his top issue after re-election would be to resuscitate a bipartisan balanced budget solution that has languished in Congress.
Tester also has been fighting Rehberg's attacks with plenty of his own, portraying the six-term congressman as a land developer — rather than a rancher — and a Washington insider with few accomplishments.
Tester blames Rehberg for failing to persuade the GOP-controlled House to pass a farm bill. He also accuses the Republican of taking lavish trips overseas on the taxpayers' tab and points to Rehberg being caught on tape saying he relies on lobbyists for his information.
As many voters hold negative views about Rehberg as Tester.
It didn't help Rehberg's case that late last year he had to drop a lawsuit he filed against his hometown's firefighters as political damage from it mounted. Three years ago, Rehberg, 57, also made headlines after he and staffers were seriously injured when a boat being operated by a GOP state senator crashed after a night of drinking.
Democrats also hope the Libertarian candidate on the ticket steals some anti-government conservative voters from Rehberg's side.
Rehberg, meanwhile, is sticking to his strategy of denouncing Obama administration policies and attacking Tester for backing many of them. Rehberg argues that Tester is not the independent-minded farmer the state thought it was going to get.
"It is the cumulative effect of all the taxes and regulations that are stifling businesses," Rehberg told campaign supporters at one Helena campaign stop, reinforcing his primary theme. "Government is not going to create the jobs. Montanans do."
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