HELENA – Republican-leaning voters say they are receiving unsolicited calls that tout the conservative credentials of the Libertarian candidate in Montana’s tight U.S. Senate race – at the possible expense of the GOP contender.
The race between U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg remains tight with a month before the election. Some Republicans worry – and some Democrats hope – that Hamilton Libertarian Dan Cox could take needed conservative votes away from Rehberg.
A polling call targeting likely Rehberg voters promotes Cox as the real constitutional conservative in the race. The pollster isn’t identifying which group is behind the call.
Kathy Means, an “actively involved” voter from Florence, said she became suspicious when the pollster kept trying to persuade her to pick Cox over Rehberg. She said the pollster pointed out Rehberg’s past support for the Patriot Act and other sensitive issues for libertarian-minded conservatives.
“This does not sound like a typical polling thing, it just sounded like they were trying to get me to not vote for Rehberg,” Means said. “I started pressing them for more information on who they represented, and then they hung up.”
So-called “push polls” can be used to negatively portray a candidate in an effort to push voters to another candidate.
The Rehberg campaign called the poll a deceptive tactic. Spokesman Chris Bond said they suspect some third-party Tester ally is behind it.
“Montanans are smart, and they’re not going to fall for this brand of dirty, deceptive politics coming from Senator Tester’s side,” Bond said.
The Tester campaign said it had nothing to do with the calls.
But Cox said it isn’t the only fishy call. He said Rehberg allies are calling his likely supporters and trying to talk them into voting for Rehberg.
Cox, who lives in Hamilton and runs an Internet fishing tackle store, said his wife got a call making the rounds to past Ron Paul donors.
The Libertarian said that the caller then tries to persuade Cox supporters to back Rehberg because he supports an audit of the Federal Reserve System – a touchstone for Paul supporters. The caller argued that a vote for Cox would ensure Democrats stay in control of the Senate.
“It would be really hypocritical for Republicans doing this to complain about the other call,” Cox said.
The Libertarian said he is not worried about being a potential spoiler in the race.
Cox said he is running against deficit spending, “Obamacare,” perceived federal incursions on liberty like the Patriot Act, prosecutions of medical marijuana providers in the state, unconstitutional wars and other issues.
“There is almost no difference between Republicans and Democrats. There may be a difference in rhetoric, but when you look at their voting records there is almost difference,” Cox said. “If I really thought the Republicans would bring us back to a constitutional government, I would have no reason to run.”
The Rehberg campaign pointed out that the congressman has the endorsement of Paul in the election, and that Rehberg also supports a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.