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BELGRADE - With fewer than 72 hours to go before Election Day, President Donald Trump made one last stop in Montana, telling an airplane hangar full of people to back the Republicans vying for the state’s two congressional seats.

But at the outdoor rally at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, the president reserved his more focused electoral pitch for Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale, mainly by attacking Rosendale’s Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, who is seeking his third term.

“You’ll never get Tester’s vote. You need a man that’s going to vote for your agenda. Your agenda is Make America Great Again,” Trump said.

A few thousand people crammed into the hangar, many donning Trump gear. Trump spoke for more than an hour, shifting randomly between praising his administration, criticizing national Democrats and urging people to vote for Rosendale and Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte on Tuesday.

The appearance was part of the president’s campaign push in the final days of the midterm elections. He rallied in West Virginia the day before, then in Indiana on Saturday morning before coming to Montana then heading to Florida for another event that night. Vice president Mike Pence is scheduled to appear at a rally in the Flathead Valley on Monday.

Saturday's rally brought the president to a county considered key to an electoral win, and one that went for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by a narrow margin in 2016. It also ensured the president hit the majority of Montana’s major media markets this year — Great Falls, Billings, Missoula and Bozeman.

Trump's hope is to shepherd a few more votes to the two Republicans in the final days. He called Democratic House candidate Kathleen Williams a "left-wing radical," but he spent more of his time going after Tester.

The president criticized Tester for opposing his Supreme Court nominees and voting against a tax cut package and a couple immigration measures. He also hit Tester over the senator’s decision to publicize allegations that Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, a doctor Trump nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, drank on the job and overprescribed medication.

Jackson eventually withdrew from consideration, but Trump has brought up the episode at each of his stops in Montana, pointing to it as one of the chief reasons he dislikes Montana’s senior senator.

“He tried to destroy that man,” Trump said.

Tester, meanwhile, was barnstorming small towns on the other side of the state on Saturday. He made stops in Browning, Kalispell, Pablo and Polson. Williams joined him in Kalispell and Polson. The pair also campaigned in Bozeman earlier this week.

Tester spokesman Luke Jackson said in an emailed statement that the race is about Rosendale and Tester, not about Trump.

"The choice is clear: Jon Tester is a third generation dirt farmer who never stops fighting for Montana in the Senate and Commissioner Rosendale is a real estate developer who wants to take away protections for folks with pre-existing conditions, voted against our veterans and wants to transfer our public lands. It's that simple," Jackson said. 

Locally, volunteers for the Democratic candidates were knocking doors in an effort to make sure their voters get their ballots cast.

Many voters in Montana submit ballots early, and already nearly 300,000 votes have been cast, according to data from the Montana Secretary of State’s Office. Dozens of rally-goers wore “I Voted” stickers.

The candidates made the same pitches they’ve made before. Gianforte talked about a number of policies he’s stood with the president on, and the need for more Trump-backers in Congress.

“Montana needs conservatives who will continue to work with President Trump,” Gianforte said.

Rosendale sang the same tune, spending no time on his record as Montana’s state auditor, a post he won in the 2016 election. Instead, he repeated the call for Tester’s ouster as a necessity for the success of the Trump administration.

“(Tester) doesn’t work with the president at all,” Rosendale said. “On every major issue … Jon Tester stood in the way.”

The crowd endured chilly temperatures to see the president speak in front of the Bridger Mountains, with low-hanging clouds hiding the peaks. For some, it was their first chance to see him.

Margaret Bloom, 45, and her husband drove to Bozeman from Casper, Wyoming. They arrived Friday and stayed overnight.

“This was kind of the closest place,” Bloom said.

Bloom said she likes how straightforward the president is and his “dedication to protecting us.” She added that she thinks his economic approach is working.

“The economy is doing fantastically,” Bloom said.

For Joe Selby, 56, of Belgrade, it was his first chance to see any sitting president. He said he likes Trump because “he doesn’t back down from the press” and “doesn’t mince any words.”

He typically votes for Republicans, and he hopes to see Tester ousted.

"I have zero use for Tester," Selby said. "As far as I'm concerned, he sold this state out."

Michael Wright can be reached at or at 406-582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1. 

Michael Wright covers the environment and wildlife issues for the Chronicle.

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