MISSOULA, Mont. — Wednesday morning showed Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican challenger Matt Rosendale's race for the U.S. Senate within almost 3,000 votes.
The race between them is still too close to call. Both candidates have held the lead as early returns trickled in.
It's projected Republicans will retain control of the U.S. Senate.
This is being billed as a historic midterm election, but polls in the race for Montana’s U.S. Senate seat showed a statistical toss-up going into Election Day.
The competition between Tester and Rosendale is the most expensive race in state history, with more than $60 million spent.
Tester is no stranger to close races. In 2006 he completed an upset victory over Republican Conrad Burns, winning by less than 3,000 votes or roughly 1 percent of the voting electorate.
His victory over Republican Denny Rehberg in 2012 was more substantial, but he still won by a less than 4-percent margin.
Tester’s campaign is bracing Tuesday night for another close race. Staffers told NBC Montana they do not expect to know the final result until Wednesday morning.
Tester, a third-generation Montana farmer and Havre native, presents himself as a moderate and touts his record of working with Republicans to pass bipartisan legislation, including 19 bills signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Tester serves as ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. He’s running on a platform holding government accountable, fighting for veterans and improved schools, infrastructure and jobs, protecting Native American rights and defending rural access to health care.
A Baltimore, Maryland, native, Rosendale began his political career in Montana in 2010, when he was elected to the Montana state House. He was elected to the state Senate in 2012.
In July 2017, Rosendale announced he would challenge Tester in this year’s Senate race. Since then it’s become an increasingly close race.
Rosendale has had several high-profile endorsements. Trump has made four visits to the state since July campaigning for him. Vice President Mike Pence has made three trips to Montana for Rosendale. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has campaigned for Rosendale twice.
In the days leading up to Election Day, Rosendale has hosted rallies across the state. He’s labelled himself as a Trump conservative running on conservative values.
Rosendale’s campaign platform is aligned with the national platform of the Trump Administration. He says he supports building a wall along the southern border and bringing an end to sanctuary cities. Rosendale’s campaign says he’s running on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, protecting the second amendment, and supporting conservative Supreme Court nominees.
“It’s about time we send someone to Washington, D.C., to help Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte represent the people of Montana,” said Rosendale at his rally with Pence in Kalispell Monday.
Libertarian Rick Breckenridge is also running. Some confusion after Breckenridge held a conference call last week with Rosendale over illegal mailers that showed support for Breckenridge. That's when he told reporters he endorses the Republican candidate.
Tuesday he walked back that endorsement. He said he didn't use the word endorsement, but just showed support. However, in a recording from that conference call Breckenridge said, "I am here today to support Matt and his candidacy and endorse him in his continuing effort to be the front man in the cause of liberty."