Sen. Jon Tester’s office is backpedaling after the Montanan said his fellow Democrat, Gov. Steve Bullock, will pursue a bid against Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) in 2020.
Tester’s office said Wednesday that the senator thought he was answering a question about whether Bullock was running for president, not Senate.
“Last evening at a political forum at American University, Senator Tester misheard a question about Governor Bullock and his future,” Tester’s chief of staff, Aaron Murphy, said in a statement. “Governor Bullock was the only Democrat in the nation to win a statewide reelection in a state President Trump won in 2016, and Jon knows the Governor’s focus now is to keep bringing Republicans and Democrats together, to fight dark money in politics, and to find effective policy solutions for Montanans.”
In a since-deleted video posted on Facebook by the American University College Democrats, Tester fielded a question about whether he thinks Bullock will run against Daines in 2020.
“Geez, I don’t know,” Tester said, according to a video of the exchange posted by Associated Press reporter Matt Volz. “You want to bet 100,000 bucks?”
As the crowd responded with laughter, Tester added: “Yeah, he’s running. Yeah, he is.”
Bullock, who will be term-limited as governor in 2020, has emphasized his bipartisan bona fides and has made visits to the key early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire in recent months as he tests the waters for a potential White House bid.
He also announced in August that he supports a ban on military-style guns, in a sign that he is attuned to calls among the Democratic base for a more liberal candidate to challenge Trump in 2020.
By contrast, when asked this year whether he would consider a 2020 Senate bid against Daines, Bullock sounded less than enthusiastic about the prospect.
“I’ve been attorney general and governor. I’m used to doing things, getting things done. . . . Candidly, I just don’t know if I would find being a senator that compelling,” he told the Montana Standard in February.
Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.