'Tester or bust': Democrats fear losing Jon Tester's Senate seat if he doesn't run in 2024
Montana has long been an uphill climb for Democrats. Former President Donald Trump carried the deep red state by 16 percent in 2020 and by 20 percent in 2016, and the last Democrat who won Montana in a presidential election was Bill Clinton in 1992.
But centrist Sen. Jon Tester has been a Democratic success story in Montana, where he won a third term in 2018. Democratic strategists are hoping that Tester will seek a fourth term in 2024, but so far, the Blue Dog Democrat hasn't said whether or not he is running. And Democrats, according the Daily Beast's Ursula Perano, fear that the seat Tester now holds will go Republican if he doesn't.
"Tester's current term is up in 2024, a year where the Democrats' Senate map is rife with opportunities for losses and virtually no pickups," Perano reports in an article published by the Beast on February 15. "Democrats will be defending their Senate seats in swing states like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Ohio — in addition to their red-state seats in West Virginia and Montana."
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Perano continues, "Democrats across the state seem sure Tester is their best shot at beating Republicans for the crucial Senate seat. He's a moderate with a farm boy appeal who's managed to win over Republicans and independents in the past. But with a very real possibility of retirement from Tester, Montana Democrats can't necessarily count on his prowess this time around."
Interviews with Montana Democrats, according to Perano, didn't show "any sign of a Plan B" if Tester decides not to run in 2024. And they view next year's Montana Senate race as "Tester or bust."
Tom Winter and Penny Ronning are among the Montana Democrats who feel that way. Ronning told the Beast, "I personally don't think that there is a Democrat in the state of Montana right now that could beat a Republican, other than Sen. Tester, for that Senate seat. Sen. Tester has a very high approval rating, and deservedly so."
Similarly, Winter told the Beast, "Jon’s the only Democrat who can win here. And that’s been settled for quite a while."
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Montana State Sen. Shannon O'Brien, a Democrat, isn't aware of anyone in her party being discussed as a possible Tester alternative if he doesn't seek a fourth term.
O'Brien told the Beast, "As far as who else might run, honestly, Tester is our person. And that conversation isn't being discussed, at least to my knowledge. The senator has plenty of time to make any decisions."
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