Aside from defeating President Obama in 2012, a top priority for the Republican Party is to gain control of the United States Senate. The GOP only needs to net a couple of seats in 2012 to control the Senate. One seat that is squarely in the GOP’s sights is the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Jon Tester in Montana.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and his Republican challenger for 2012, Rep. Denny Rehberg, are in a virtual dead heat for the race right now, a Lee Newspapers poll of Montana voters shows.
In a telephone poll of 625 registered voters early last week, 46 percent said they would vote to re-elect Tester if the election were held today – and 45 percent said they would choose Rehberg. Only 9 percent of those polled were undecided.
The poll has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points, essentially making the contest a tie at this point.
Tester, 54, a farmer from Big Sandy, will run next year for re-election to a second term as Montana’s junior U.S. senator. He won election to the post in 2006, narrowly defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns.
Rehberg, 55, has been Montana’s only U.S. House representative since 2001, winning re-election to that job five times.
Rehberg announced last month that he would challenge Tester in the 2012 election.
The Rehberg-Tester battle is expected to be one of the most-watched U.S. Senate races in the country, as Republicans attempt to win back control of the body. Democrats currently hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats.
Brad Coker, president of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the poll for Lee Newspapers, said given that the race is a toss-up now, the outcome likely will depend on the status of the state’s and nation’s economy next year and the quality of each candidate’s campaign.