Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence will be in Bozeman next week to stump for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale.

Vice President Mike Pence will come back to Montana next week, stopping in Bozeman to stump for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale.

The Rosendale campaign announced on Monday that Pence will appear next Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. No further details were released.

Pence’s second appearance in Montana underscores President Donald Trump’s interest in the race, which pits Rosendale, the state auditor, against Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. The race is expected to be close, with Tester being a two-term incumbent in a state that supported Trump in 2016.

Rosendale has campaigned heavily on his support of Trump, and he’s received plenty of campaign help from the Trump team. The president held two rallies on Rosendale’s behalf this year. Donald Trump Jr. will make his second appearance in the state this year Tuesday in Bozeman, accompanied by his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News personality who works for a pro-Trump super PAC.

“I’m humbled by the level of support we’re seeing from the Trump administration,” Rosendale said in an emailed statement. “Vice President Pence understands the importance of having a U.S. senator who will represent our Montana values and support President Trump’s agenda, and that’s exactly what I’ll do.”

The Tester campaign has criticized Rosendale for relying on support from the administration to rally voters.

Luke Jackson, a Tester spokesman, said in an email that “Rosendale can bring in as many out-of-staters he wants, but this race is about Matt Rosendale and Jon Tester.”

“Maryland Matt can’t sell his terrible record of fighting to transfer our public lands, rubber stamping health insurance increases on Montanans, and voting against our veterans to Montanans, so he’s got to bring in other folks to do it for him,” Jackson said.

The race is expected to be close, and a recent poll by the National Republican Senatorial Committee had the two major party candidates deadlocked at 44 percent. A CBS News poll earlier this month showed Tester ahead by 2 points.

Unseating Tester has been the focus of the rallies by Trump, Pence and Trump Jr., even as Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte seeks reelection against former Democratic state legislator Kathleen Williams.

The focus on the Senate race reflects what the Trump organization has done across the country this year. Tester is one of several Democrats up for reelection in the Senate in states where Trump won by a wide margin, and Trump has been campaigning for Republicans in several of those states, including Missouri, North Dakota and West Virginia.

Jeremy Johnson, a political science professor at Carroll College, said Republicans are more likely to keep their majority in the Senate, too, meaning it makes sense to direct their resources at those races.

He added that it’s “unprecedented” for Montana to get two campaign visits each from the president and vice president. He said the extent to which Trump has campaigned for candidates across the country is unique. Whether it works won’t be known until election day.

“It’s an open question about how much this helps Republican candidates,” Johnson said.

Tester drew Trump’s ire earlier this year when he made public accusations that Ronny Jackson, Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, drank on the job and overprescribed medication. Republicans have also criticized Tester for opposing the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Meanwhile, Tester has campaigned on his ability to work across party lines and get bills signed into law. His office issued a news release last week after Trump signed a bill requiring Senate candidates to electronically file financial disclosure reports. They celebrated it as the “20th Tester-authored bill Trump has signed into law.”

Michael Wright can be reached at mwright@dailychronicle.com 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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