Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg exchanged sharp words on familiar issues in only their second head-to-head meeting this campaign season.
Rehberg used every opportunity at a debate Monday night to tie Tester to President Barack Obama.
The six-term congressman says the stimulus measures, health care bill, and business regulations are all bad for Montana. Rehberg on several occasions brought up the pending closure off a nearby coal-fired power plant blamed on environment regulations.
Tester accused Rehberg of trying to incorrectly "morph" him into Obama.
Tester hammered Rehberg for a lawsuit he filed against Billings for a wildfire. And he asked Rehberg to explain his 15 taxpayer-paid trips to luxury destinations.
Rehberg says the trips were used to gather information, such as learning about Australia's management of endangered species.
Petro Theatre is stuffed to bursting. The room is full of nervous, excited energy — a spectator-sport vibe as people discuss the impact of the race, what they'll hear on stage and how they think the candidates will do.
Rehberg supporters are in red T-shirts, emblazoned with the campaign logo.
Tester supporters wave signs and wear "Tester" stickers on their shirts and jackets. Nearly every demographic is represented from senior citizens down to high school students and everyone in between.
A crowd lined up hours before a debate between Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg at Montana State University Billings.
It will be the Senate candidates' first debate in more than three months, and it begins at 7 p.m. in Petro Theatre.
When they last met in June, Tester, the Democratic incumbent, and his Republican challenger tangled over such issues as the Supreme Court's Citizens United campaign finance ruling, health care, regulation of the financial industry and other issues.
The Montana Senate is one of the most closely watched races in the country, one of a half-dozen or so pure toss-ups that will determine whether Democrats continue to control the Senate or Republicans take it over.
The debate, sponsored by Billings Gazette Communications and Montana State University Billings, will be broadcast statewide on Montana Public Television channels and is scheduled to air nationally on C-SPAN.
It also will be broadcast live on Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio and the Northern Broadcasting System across Montana.
The debate also will be streamed live on several websites, including www.billingsgazette.com, www.ypradio.org, www.kufm.org, and www.northernbroadcasting.com.