Former president Donald Trump endorsed a favourite candidate of the Republican establishment in Montana’s Senate race instead of the the more MAGA-friendly candidate on Friday afternoon.
Congressman Matt Rosendale, one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy, announced he will run for the Republican nomination for Senate in Montana to challenge incumbent Democrat Jon Tester.
But Mr Trump announced that he would endorse Tim Sheehy, whom establishment Republicans largely support, instead of Mr Rosendale.
“I also respect Matt Rosendale, and was very happy to Endorse him in the past - and will Endorse him again in the future should he decide to change course and run for his Congressional Seat,” Mr Trump said on Truth Social. “But in this instance, Tim is the candidate who is currently best-positioned to DEFEAT Lazy Jon Tester, and Regain the Republican Majority in the United States Senate.”
Mr Rosendale made the announcement in a video on Friday after much speculation that he would do so. Mr Rosendale ran for Senate against Mr Tester in 2018 and narrowly fell short even in a year when many incumbent Democrats lost re-election in states that Donald Trump run.
Mr Rosendale called out Mr Sheehy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“This Republican primary race is the people of Montana versus Mitch McConnell, Joe Biden and the Washington insiders,” Mr Rosendale said in his announcement video. “Mitch McConnell knows that I won’t support him for Republican leader, so he’s trying to keep me out of the Senate.”
Mr Rosendale bragged that he voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election on January 6 and contrasted it with how Mr Sheehy gave money to Nikki Haley, Mr Trump’s sole remaining opponent in the GOP primary.
But Mr Tester told The Independent that he did not care who would be the nominee.
“Well, I mean, look, I don't have much reaction, but frankly, I don't really think it matters who comes out of the primary,” he said. “This is going to be the same race.”
So far, Mr Trump has not endorsed in the Montana race but various allies of Mr Trump have ended up on various sides. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia endorsed Mr Sheehy. Conversely, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida endorsed Mr Rosendale.
“I’m 100% sure Mitch McConnell has a candidate in the Montana GOP Primary,” he said. “And 1000% sure it isn’t Matt Rosendale. Fire Mitch. Support Rosendale.”
Mr Gaetz and Mr Rosendale both opposed Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker in January of last year and were two of the eight Republicans who voted yes on a motion to vacate to eject Mr McCarthy.
Montana voted for Mr Trump twice. In 2020, Mr Trump beat President Joe Biden by more than 16 points and Mr Daines roundly beat then-governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, by 10 points for re-election. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rated the Montana Senate race as a toss-up.