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Rehberg Makes Senate Bid Official

Rep. Denny Rehberg on Saturday confirmed an earlier Roll Call report that he will challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D) in 2012.

In an interview with the Billings Gazette, the Montana Republican said, “Montana needs a Senator who will not toe the [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid line, and essentially supporting [President] Barack Obama.”

Rehberg scheduled his formal announcement for a Lincoln/Reagan Day dinner in Helena, with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) as the keynote speaker.

The six-term Congressman will give up his spot as an Appropriations subcommittee chairman in a Republican-controlled House for the chance to become a Senator, but he told the newspaper it was worth the risk.

“I’m willing to give that up to put my name on the ballot to create a contrast of philosophies between those that believe government is the solution and those of us who believe small business is the solution,” Rehberg said.

Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy responded by tying Rehberg to a Bachmann budget-cutting proposal that would decrease the amount of federal support for veterans, something Tester also brought up last week.

“When Montanans choose their candidate a year and a half from now, we look forward to an honest debate, comparing Jon’s record as a hardworking farmer against anyone else’s,” Murphy said. “Until then, we hope Congressman Rehberg does a better job explaining his support for stripping benefits from Montana’s veterans.”

At this point, Rehberg has a clear path to the general election, with no other Republicans running. Businessman Steve Daines (R) announced Thursday that he was leaving the Senate race to instead run for Rehberg’s House seat.

Roll Call Politics rates the Senate race a Tossup.