A Libertarian Party candidate who threatened to be a spoiler in Montana’s razor-close Senate race has pulled out of the race and endorsed Republican challenger Matt Rosendale over embattled Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester.
President Trump has particularly targeted the two-term Democrat, whose loss would all but doom Democratic hopes of reclaiming the Senate. Mr. Trump, who blames Mr. Tester for sabotaging his nomination of White House physician Ronny Jackson earlier this year to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, plans an unprecedented fourth rally in the sparsely populated state in the coming days to boost Mr. Rosendale.
Libertarian candidate Rick Breckenridge was only getting about 3 percent of the vote in polls, but his shift could be critical in a state where Mr. Tester has won two terms without ever getting above 50 percent of the vote.
Mr. Tester held a 4.2 percent lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, but there have been few opinion polls taken and Republicans think Mr. Trump’s support and the backlash from the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings have boosted Mr. Rosendale, the state’s auditor and insurance commissioner.
The bearded Mr. Breckenridge said he was pulling out to protest an anonymous political mailer to Montana voters that suggested he was the “true conservative” in the race and casting doubt on Mr. Rosendale’s conservative bona fides. Democratic groups are accused of using the same tactic in Mr. Tester’s winning 2012 race to peel away support from Republican challenger Rep. Denny Rehberg.
The libertarian candidate slammed what he called a “dark money” attempt to game the Senate race, and said Mr. Rosendale was the best candidate to restore integrity to the process.
Even though he disagrees with the GOP challenger on a number of issues, “I’m standing in unity with Matt to combat dark money in politics,” Mr. Breckenridge told the Associated Press Thursday.
Mr. Tester’s campaign denied that it had anything to do with the mailer.