Rosendale drops out of U.S. Senate race

Posted at 4:38 PM, Feb 15, 2024

HELENA — Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale has dropped out of the Montana U.S. Senate race MTN has confirmed, as first reported by Politico.

He entered the race Friday morning after months of speculation and hints of a potential run, with the goal of ultimately challenging Democrat U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in the general election.

In a statement, Rosendale said knew the race would be tough but former President Trump’s endorsement of his opponent Tim Sheehy meant the “hill was just too steep.”

Rosendale said he will be returning back to Montana soon to be with his family and will “prayerfully consider what is next.”

Many state and national GOP leaders – including U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, Gov. Greg Gianforte and U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke – have already lined up behind Sheehy, saying he’d be a stronger choice against Tester. Rosendale previously ran for Senate in 2018 and lost to Tester by 3 percentage points.

Full statement from U.S. Rep. Rosendale:

Instead of one of those phony statements from politicians, here’s my statement on why I’m withdrawing my candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

As everyone knows, I have planned to run for the US Senate and to win both the primary and the general election. However, the day I announced, President Trump then announced that he was endorsing a different candidate.

I have long been a supporter of the President, and remain so. But I have been forced to calculate what my chances of success would be with Trump supporting my opponent. This race was already going to be tough, as I was fighting against Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican establishment in Washington. But I felt like I could beat them, as the voters do not agree with them choosing who would be the next U.S. Senator from Montana.

However, by my calculations, with Trump endorsing my opponent and the lack of resources, the hill was just too steep. I spoke with Sen. Daines earlier this week and we both agree that this is the best path forward for Republicans to regain the majority in the U.S. Senate.

Over the next few days I will be back home in Montana with my family and will prayerfully consider what is next.

Montana Republican U.S. Senator Steve Daines posted on social media: "I appreciate Matt’s many years of service to Montana. It will take all Republicans working together to defeat Jon Tester in November."

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy directly addressed Rosendale on social media: "Matt, Montana is grateful for your service and for showing Washington, D.C. what it means to hold the line on reckless spending. I know working together we’ll win this race and defeat Jon Tester."

Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Sheila Hogan issued the following statement after Matt Rosendale suspended his campaign for U.S. Senate:

“Rosendale spent months making the case that Tim Sheehy has no place representing Montana in the Senate and he was right: Sheehy is an out-of-state tech millionaire completely out of touch with Montana’s way of life. Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate Tim Sheehy wants to transfer off our public lands and shutter our rural hospitals, and he made his money off taxpayer-funded government contracts and investments tied to China – that’s a record he’ll be dogged by from now until Election Day. Third generation Montana farmer Jon Tester will wipe the floor with Tim Sheehy.”

Rosendale served in the Montana Legislature and as state auditor before being elected to two terms in the U.S House. There, he’s become known for pushing back against GOP leadership, most notably during recent battles over the speakership. He launched his Senate campaign vowing to stand up to establishment Republicans, who he described as “the Uniparty” for not doing enough to distinguish themselves from Democrats.

Even before Rosendale announced he would run for U.S. Senate, at least eight Republicans had expressed interest in running for his U.S. House seat, representing Montana’s eastern congressional district. With Rosendale dropping out of the Senate race, it is unclear at this time what it may mean for the Republicans running for his House seat.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with quotes from other political players in Montana.