When Sen. Steve Daines took the stage at the Make America Great Again rally in Missoula on Thursday night, he opened his seven-minute speech by saying, “Thank God Hillary Clinton is not president of the United States.”
The comment earned Daines a rousing round of cheers from the crowd of Trump supporters, who broke out in the now-familiar chant of “Lock her up.”
“This is is also a time that we can say thank God Justice Kavanaugh is on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Daines said. “I’m so thankful President Trump is the president of this great nation.”
Daines spent most of his time praising Trump and his agenda, from border security and immigration to lower taxes and fewer government regulations. Later in the evening, Trump would return the favor, calling Daines “the strong and silent type,” adding, “I want to be that way some day.”
Like the president, Daines also wants to see a stronger GOP majority in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans currently hold a slender 51-49 margin. He said Washington needs leaders who will “stand with the president rather that working against President Trump.”
It would be a “scary thought,” Daines said, if Rep. Nancy Pelosi became House majority leader and Sen. Chuck Schumer became the leader of the Senate.
“If that were to happen in this nation, we’d have more government, higher taxes, fewer jobs, and there would be more liberal judges on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Daines said. “We need a senator that will stop the radical environmentalists who are locking us out of our forests while we watch it burn.”
Rep. Greg Gianforte took a similar tone later in the evening, when he delivered a 10-minute speech before Trump’s arrival. He said the nation has turned the corner from the tenure of former president Barack Obama.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, he added, are restoring hope.
“Can you imagine if Hillary was president? If Chuck Schumer ran the Senate and Nancy Pelosi ran the House?” Gianforte said. “We would be back to a failed set of policies with liberal judges, higher taxes, out of control regulations. We’d still be in the war on coal. We’d have open borders and a sluggish economy.”
Gianforte is in a tight race with Democratic challenger Kathleen Williams, who has taken her own shots at Gianforte, calling him a hypocrite on taxes who doesn’t fully understand the role of Congress.
Its members, she said, are supposed to serve as a check and balance on the executive branch, not as presidential lap dogs.
“To hear him only talk about advancing the president’s agenda made me realize how scary this is, because he doesn’t really know what his role is as a member of Congress,” she said in Missoula earlier in the week.
Williams also criticized Gianforte for failing to meet face to face with constituents, regardless of their political leaning. Gianforte said Thursday he has visited all 56 counties and takes his role as the state’s only representative in the House “very seriously.”
“My opponent (Williams) opposes the pro-growth, pro-family tax cuts that are helping Montanans across the state,” Gianforte said. “Cutting taxes and red tape is working. The economy is booming. Unemployment is at a 49-year low. Wages are growing faster than anytime in the last nine years, and they’re growing the fastest for the lower income folks.”
Matt Rosendale, who’s challenging Sen. Jon Tester for his seat, also praised the president, calling his third trip to Montana “one for the history books.” He then launched into a short campaign speech and took aim at his opponent.
“President Trump and all of his policies are on the line,” Rosendale said. “Let’s make history and retire Jon Tester, and send President Trump the help he needs.”
Tester will spend Saturday in eastern Montana, including stops in Glendive, Miles City, Lame Deer and Crow Agency. Williams is expected to join him.