With only eight days left until Election Day, the race between Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Matt Rosendale for U.S Senate is so close that it brought Senator Rand Paul to Havre for the first time in his life.
“The reason I’m supporting Matt is because I think he’ll stand up for balancing the budget,” Paul, a Kentucky Republican, told a packed house during a Get Out the Vote rally in the Duck Inn Vineyard Room.
Paul, who also stumped in Billings and Lewistown on Sunday, said he’s chosen a few candidates to support, Rosendale being one of them. President Donald Trump has rallied in Montana three times this year with the hopes of pushing Rosendale over the edge to victory. Trump is expected to return to Montana a fourth time before Nov. 6.
Before Paul spoke, Rosendale, the Montana auditor and candidate, briefly addressed the crowd.
“You asked me to reduce spending and to reduce regulations and to protect your property rights and your gun rights and the sanctity of life and I did those things,” Rosendale said. “And if you send me to Washington, I will do those things for you there as well.”
Rosendale and Paul emphasized the tightness of the race and how important it is to get out the vote. Get your friends, your family members, out to the polls, Paul said, because “if you work hard, he might win.”
Federal spending and government growth through regulations are two of Paul’s major issues and he needs help in Congress, he said, adding that big spending isn’t exclusive to Democrats. Some Republicans like spending, too. He believes Rosendale would be the kind of senator who could help, whereas Tester, a Democrat from Big Sandy, “is absolutely one of the most liberal senators.”
Paul said Tester voted against Paul-co-sponsored legislation meant to reduce bureaucracy, referring to the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. The goal of the REINS Act was to rein in unelected federal bureaucrats by requiring that Congress affirmatively approve every new “major rule” proposed by the Executive Branch before it can be enforced on the American people. And to do this, Paul said, he and fellow Republicans need help and Tester needs to go.
Most regulations haven’t been passed by Congress, Paul said, but by bureaucrats. “For too long, an ever-growing federal bureaucracy has piled regulations and red tape on the backs of the American people without any approval by Americans’ elected representatives.” It’s the reason the greatness of America is “slipping away” — because government has gotten so big.
“We agree we’re going to have a government—a really, really small one,” Paul said.
He cited the Affordable Care Act as an example of how regulations are added. After Obamacare passed, the Department of Health and Human Services added a pile of regulations into it, he said.
This is commonplace and the reason for such bloated government, Paul said. There are 45 federal agencies with SWAT teams. Why does the Internal Revenue Service or the Department of Education need a SWAT team, he rhetorically asked.
The way to combat an ever-growing government is via a Congress and a Supreme Court that will side with the people. Paul believes Trump-nominated justices like Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will be those kinds of justices.
Some opponents of the REINS Act call it “an extraordinarily extreme measure that would effectively make it impossible to protect the public by shutting down the entire regulatory system.
Tester spokesperson Chris Meagher said: “Add Senator Paul to the long list of out-of-state special interests like his fellow Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell who are all-in for Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale. Senator Paul and Commissioner Rosendale are longtime advocates for the transferring of federal lands, privatizing Social Security, and gutting federal funding for public education. That might work in Kentucky and Maryland, but it is a non-starter in Montana.”
Paul also touched on the tension in American culture and a Democratic party that “only cares about you if you have a special identity.” Paul says everyone is equally important, and has rights, equally. America is about individual liberty, all individuals.
And the tension needs to be dialed down and replaced with civil debate and dialogue. During the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, he said he was yelled at and accused of being a rapist.
“How disgusting, disgraceful and horrible what they did to that man,” Paul said.
Paul reminded the crowd that no Democrat voted for the tax cuts, reform that allowed 90 percent of Americans to get more money. The other 10 percent, he said, are really rich, which he pointed out, flies in the face of Democratic talking points that they were tax breaks for the rich.
Since the tax cuts passed, 2 million people got jobs and 4 million a pay increase, Paul said, which paved a segue into thoughts on societal decay causes.
The bigger problem now is there is not enough labor to work all the available jobs. One way to destroy a culture is by “giving stuff” and destroying work ethic, Paul said. Everybody should work, he believes, because work is a reward, a way to build self-esteem.
“We’re destroying whole peoples by putting them in places and giving them stuff,” he said.
Paul, a Republican with Libertarian leanings, was elected a U.S. senator for Kentucky in 2010, making him the first senator to serve alongside a parent — longtime Republican Congressman Ron Paul — in the House of Representatives. Paul launched a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015, but lost, along with many others, to Trump.
Paul said Sunday that he has an overall good relationship with Trump. He even plays golf with him.
“I have some disagreements with the president, but we get along pretty well,” he said. “He’s exactly the same in private as he is in public.”
The hotly contested race is believed to be one major reason why there is a bigger-than-usual turnout in midterm elections. As of Friday, the Hill County Clerk and Recorder’s office had issued 5,143 absentee ballots and 2,616 had been returned with 10 days to go to Election Day. There are 9,163 people registered in the county as of Friday.
In 2016, a presidential election, 4,767 ballots were issued and 4,526 were returned by Election Day.
The Senate race has been marked by charges and counter-charges. Tester has portrayed himself as a third-generation Big Sandy farmer who holds Montana values. He says he has been a champion of veterans’ rights, education and health care.
Rosendale says he represents Montana values such as the right to life, lower taxes, property rights and gun rights.
Tester has portrayed Rosendale as a Maryland land developer who claims to be a Glendive rancher while never in his life has he owned cattle.
Rosendale says Tester calls himself a Big Sandy dirt farmer when he’s in Montana, but works with liberal lobbyists and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York when he is in Washington, D.C.
It is the costliest race in Montana history with Tester far ahead in candidate contributions but outside political organizations aligned with Rosendale spending more than those associated with Tester. Tester and Rosendale have spent nearly $20 million combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and the Associated Press reported that overall spending has hit $60 million.
Most polls have shown Tester with a slight lead and political forecasters have either given Tester a slight lead or called the race a toss-up.