90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, October 15, 2012

Fate Of The Senate Could Lie With Montana

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (left) is facing Republican Congressman Dennis Rehberg in a tight Senate race in Montana. (AP)

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (left) is facing Republican Congressman Dennis Rehberg in a tight Senate race in Montana. (AP)

Democratic Senator Jon Tester and Republican challenger, Congressman Denny Rehberg are engaged in one of the tightest Senate races in the country. The campaign has become increasingly contentious as both sides flood the state with attack advertisements.

In a debate Sunday night, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg stuck with his central campaign theme, mentioning President Barack Obama early and often as he laid blame on U.S. Sen. Jon Tester for unpopular administration policies.

Tester scoffed at Rehberg’s attack that the Democrat votes with the president 95 percent of the time as “crazy.” Tester joked that he doesn’t even agree with his wife 95 percent of the time.

Recent polls show Rehberg, the Republican, with a slim lead — but one that falls inside the margin of error.

Both Tester and Rehberg were less aggressive than at a debate a week ago in Billings.

The debate opened with Tester offering a strong defense for the stimulus spending as necessary at the start of the recession to build infrastructure and put people to the work.

“We are still not where we need to be. But it was the step in the right direction moving forward,” said Tester as he pointed to several local projects built with the money. “We couldn’t sit back and do nothing.”

Rehberg trashed it as unnecessary spending, as he did many of the other Obama administration polices like the federal health care bill.

Tester’s primary attack of the evening was to slam Rehberg for seeking to end funding for women’s health care clinics. Rehberg said the move came as part of an effort to end duplicative services, and said he believes low-income women can receive family planning services under Medicare.

Tester also blamed Rehberg, who has been in Congress since 2000, for inflating debt with tax cuts, two wars and new prescription drug help for seniors. Rehberg countered that the debt has really ballooned under the current administration.

Rehberg attacked Tester for failing to heed the warning of business groups who were seeking help dealing with environmental rules they deemed unfriendly, and that are now being blamed for the closure of a coal-fired power plant near Billings. Tester argued plant owner PPL Montana could pay for the upgrades without event putting a small dent in profits.

Tester touted his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which he bills as a compromise that seeks to both increase logging and wilderness. And he defended the health care bill from Rehberg’s attack, pointing out it offers help for those with pre-existing conditions, the uninsured and others.

“To listen to the congressman you would think the old system was just grand. The old system was not grand,” Tester said.

Rehberg sought to make the distinction on the estate tax clear, which Tester thinks should only apply to individuals with more than $5 million in assets.

“Make no mistake, I am the candidate who wants no death tax,” Rehberg said. “The death tax should be zeroed out. Plain and simple.”

The evening debate also included Libertarian candidate Dan Cox, who was the fly in the ointment by pointing out uncomfortable issues for both major party candidates.

Cox said Tester’s logging plan is an inappropriate use of the federal government. And he labeled Rehberg’s proposal that grants more border enforcement powers to the Department of Homeland Security “a police state bill.”

Cox pointed out that both Tester and Rehberg are blaming each other for a lot of problems.

“I am going to agree with both of them,” Cox said.


  • Mike Dennison, Lee Newspapers

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.

Here & Now resident chef and cookbook author Kathy Gunst shares her list of the best cookbooks of the year.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

December 18 Comment

College Counselor: ‘A Deferral Is Not A Denial’

Lisa Micele shares tips for applying to college — especially for students who have been deferred under early decision.

December 18 15 Comments

America’s Political Dynasties

Americans under 38 have only experienced one presidential election that did not involve a Bush or a Clinton.

December 17 2 Comments

Atticus Lish’s ‘Preparation For The Next Life’

The author's debut novel centers on an unlikely romance between an Iraq veteran and a Uyghur from China.

December 17 3 Comments

Diagnosing Ear Infections With Your Smartphone

The CellScope Oto is a clip-on gadget that turns a smartphone into an otoscope — the tool doctors use to check out a patient's eardrum.