Republican leaders in Montana were so concerned about a potential primary fight for the Senate seat that they urged Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale to remain in the House.
What you’re trying to do is not working.
Although Rosendale’s 2018 Senate bid was unsuccessful, he is making preparations for another statewide run by hiring a high-profile fundraiser and courting influential conservatives. After the Club for Growth reversed its decision to support his campaign, he is also working to dispel any remaining doubts.
“He’s running,” said former conservative senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who has promised support for Rosendale. “Of course, he’s running.”
A Senate run is still publicly up in the air for Rosendale. His actions in private, though, may make it more difficult for his party to oust Senator Jon Tester, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate.
Republicans made a deliberate effort to sideline Rosendale and pave the way for Tim Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL and current business executive who announced his candidature for the Senate in June. They were worried that Rosendale, with his high profile in the state, would win the primary but lose to Tester in the general election. Given the Senate’s tight margin of defeat, the party’s success in Montana in 2024 is crucial.
But Rosendale shows no signs of giving up. Caroline Wren, a former Trump campaign adviser now working to collect money for conservative candidates like Arizona’s Kari Lake, has joined his team. He has spent the summer campaigning in the districts of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who has endorsed Sheehy, in Kalispell, Bozeman, and Polson, showing that his goals extend beyond the state capital.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus and Republicans like Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) have been pushing him to join the fray in recent weeks. In addition, he has pledged support from Heritage Action and Turning Point Action members and Senator Jim DeMint. Two sources familiar with the matter have told tweets during the past two weeks that if Rosendale enters the race, the Senate Conservatives Fund, a PAC created by DeMint, will support him.
Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) are just two of the notable conservatives who have tweeted their praise for the congressman in the previous two weeks.
“The Senate is not going to change the direction of the country unless we have more people like Matt over there,” DeMint added. I told him to hurry up and get going. I think he’ll help shift attitudes in the Senate, so I’m OK with him being there.
Rosendale’s attendance at a fundraiser in Kalispell last week fueled rumours that he is considering a statewide candidature. A member of Rosendale’s local Republican party reportedly taped over the words “U.S. Congress” on one of his campaign placards in a playful attempt to persuade him to run for the Senate.
According to polls, Rep. Rosendale has overwhelming support in Montana. He has their whole confidence and backing if he runs,” claimed the congressman’s top adviser, Aashka Varma.
Varma also attacked Sheehy, previewing possible attack lines on diversity, equity, and inclusion programmes and environmental, social, and governing investing, two subjects that are divisive within the party’s conservative wing. A candidate who favours “Leftist ESG and DEI provisions” and putting American soldiers into Ukraine, she argued, would not be elected in Montana.
The two men had worked together before. According to the source, Sheehy hosted several Rosendale campaign events in his house over the years.
Since entering the campaign, Sheehy, a wealthy aerial fireman, has received widespread support. National Senate Campaign Committee Chair Steve Daines (R-Montana) took the unprecedented step of publicly encouraging Rosendale to remain in the House of Representatives by endorsing him. Many other senators, led by Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), made it obvious and coordinated that they wanted Rosendale to stay out of the Senate.
Daines told HEADLINESFOREVER in June, “I really like Matt Rosendale, which is why I am encouraging him to build seniority for the great state of Montana in the House and help Republicans hold their majority.”
The results of any primary in Montana will have an effect well beyond the state’s borders. To win back the Senate, the Republicans need at least two victories, and probably just one. The states of West Virginia and Montana represent their primary areas of focus.
But the big hit for Rosendale came last month, when David McIntosh, president of the prominent Club for Growth, signalled that the group was not confident it would endorse the congressman in a Senate contest despite endorsing him in 2018.
The congressman has gone on record as saying that he and McIntosh spoke, and that McIntosh told the Club president that he had been “misquoted.” However, McIntosh has not officially retracted his statements. One who was present during the conversation confirms that McIntosh did not inform Rosendale that he had been misquoted.
Late last month, inquiries into the Club’s backing of Rosendale began. McIntosh told the assembled media that Sheehy was an impressive candidate, but that his organisation had not yet determined what to do if Rosendale ran.
McIntosh has stated that, “if he does,” a thorough examination of that particular election will be conducted to determine the optimal course of action.
The tone that McIntosh took at a similar event in February was considerably different: “If he decides to run, we’d want to support him again,” he remarked of Rosendale.
The Club has amassed an excellent roster of wealthy donors, allowing it to effectively channel funds into pivotal elections. It has plans to use the $13 million it has helped raise to support Representative Alex Mooney in West Virginia’s Senate election, another potentially nasty GOP primary. It is unclear what, if any, resources it would allocate to Montana.