Republican businessman Steve Daines announced Saturday he will challenge Montana Sen. Jon Tester in 2012, attacking Tester as a liberal who backed President Barack Obama and the administration's signature health care law. It's an early signal that GOP candidates will continue using an anti-Obama strategy that worked in many cases as Republicans won back the House earlier this month.
Roll Call first reported Daines’ intentions last week. Tester faces his first re-election campaign, and Republicans believe his seat in the conservative state is among their top likely pickup opportunities as they attempt to take control of the Senate.
“Jon Tester has made his choice. He stands with Obama not Montana,” Daines said Saturday, according to a partial transcript of his remarks. “I too have made my choice. I stand for Montana and not Obama. It is urgent that we start to hold Jon Tester accountable to the people of Montana starting today.”
Daines also slammed Tester for his votes in favor of health care reform and the stimulus, and for leaving Capitol Hill last month without extending the Bush tax cuts.
“I can stay on the sidelines no longer. The Montana Senate delegation is even more liberal than that of Massachusetts,” he said.
GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg is also considering a bid and would be considered the favorite for the nomination if he decides to run. Also contemplating the race is national security expert Neil Livingstone, who told Roll Call he would not make a decision until the spring.
In 2008, Daines ran statewide as the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor and also served as state chairman for the presidential campaign of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. His campaign Facebook page includes a photo taken with Huckabee, who might make another bid for the White House in 2012.
Daines is currently a vice president at RightNow Technologies, where he focuses on business in the Asia and Pacific region. He was in Australia on business in the days leading up to his announcement.
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