BOZEMAN — U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg are debating a final time in Bozeman, giving voters one last chance to see them head-to-head with just 17 days left until Election Day.
Polls show that the race remains tight, ensuring it remains one of the highest-profile Senate battles in the nation as both sides vie for control of the chamber. Montana airwaves have been dominated with attack advertising fueled by millions of dollars in outside spending.
AP Photo/Billings Gazette, Casey Page
Sen. Jon Tester, right, speaks during a debate with Rep. Denny Rehberg on Monday in Billings
Saturday's debate gives both candidates a chance to directly challenge their opponent and make an appeal directly to voters.
Rehberg, a six-term congressman, has built a campaign around criticizing the first-term Tester for supporting Obama administration policies. Rehberg has been focusing recent attacks on the closure of a coal-fired power plant near Billings.
Rehberg promises to use a Senate seat to undo "Obamacare" and business regulations he argues are bad for the economy. The Republican also has promised to end the so-called "death tax."
Tester argues that Rehberg is a career politician who makes selfish decisions, such as seeking money from the city of Billings taxpayers in a lawsuit for a wildfire that burned on his land.
At the same time, the Democrat has also been touting accomplishments helping Montana constituents, like veterans. And Tester has defended key votes, such as arguing stimulus spending was necessary and effective in bringing money home to build Montana projects in order to get work for area contractors.
Tester says his top priority is to resuscitate a stalled bipartisan tax and budget plan that would end deficit spending.
With Obama almost certain to lose in the state, Tester is banking on the state's ticket-splitting tradition in which voters often pick Democrats for lower offices while endorsing the Republican presidential candidate.
The fourth debate won't feature Libertarian Dan Cox, who was critical of both candidates last weekend in Kalispell where there was less back-and-forth between Rehberg and Tester compared to previous debates.