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President Obama will be on the ballot, and in conservative Montana there has been a lot of backlash to health care reform and government spending.

“Two years is a long, long, long time in politics,” Mr. Tester said of his prospects. “I’m going to continue to get back to Montana every weekend to talk about issues that are important and call my own shots like I’ve done. I’m going to work like crazy to do the best job I can, as I have the last four years.”

Political circles in Montana are full of speculation over who will challenge Mr. Tester, who has committed to running again.

Republicans have been hammering him for ties to Obama administration policies. Many hope that GOP U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, a rancher, will challenge Mr. Tester. Neither Mr. Tester nor Mr. Rehberg has publicly addressed the possibility, but their exchanges have grown more heated.

Mr. Tester, who has started to raise money, said he can’t worry about who will challenge him and that he has plenty of time to campaign.

“The fact is I would much rather work on policy and do that kind of stuff. It connects you up [to the voters],” Mr. Tester said.

Mr. Tester has split from the Obama administration on some issues, sticking with his populist roots in votes against corporate bailouts. And he continues to be vocal on gun rights issues.

He recently challenged Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on her agency’s decision to decline South Korea’s offer to sell its surplus of American-made M1 carbines back to the United States. The guns would go into the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which allows qualified citizens buy antiquated army weapons.

“I think you have to look at it from a common-sense standpoint,” he said. “It’s not putting a weapon in a crook’s hands, this is a collector’s item.”