Sen. Jon Tester on Thursday pushed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to spend more time on the campaign trail in the final weeks before Election Day as a counter to President Donald Trump's penchant for riling up his supporters on the stump.
“I think that Joe’s got everything it takes to win this election,” the Montana Democrat told POLITICO’s Jake Sherman in an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival .
“I think that if President Trump has any strong suit it’s that he is a rabid campaigner and he loves to get out and have his rallies — and I think Joe just needs to get out and talk to people tell them his vision for the country and I think he’ll be fine,” he continued.
Biden has ramped up his campaign schedule significantly in recent weeks relative to the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when he held entirely virtual events from his home. Though Biden has resumed campaign travel, his in-person events have skewed much smaller than the thousand-person rallies the president has hosted, often in violation of state regulations intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The Biden campaign, which has called Trump’s events “superspreader” threats, has defended holding the smaller events, arguing that they are putting the health and safety of Biden, his staff and voters at a premium.
Asked if he shares the concerns raised by some Democrats about Biden’s slower-paced campaign schedule, Tester responded: “Absolutely.”
“The last election, 2016, if we learned anything from that from Democrats, you don't show up you don't win,” he said, apparently alluding to complaints that the party’s nominee Hillary Clinton never campaigned in Wisconsin, a state Trump won four years ago that had been seen by many as reliably Democratic.
“It’s critically important that Joe gets out and every day has a plan. And he's got good people around him, I'm sure that's the case,” Tester noted. The senator pushed Biden to get out “as much as possible,” but “do it in a responsible way so you're not causing problems as far as the pandemic goes.”
Tester emphasized that campaigning safely during a pandemic requires more precuations, “but nonetheless you have to get out, you have to do that. That’s part of the deal — just do it right, do it safe.”
The senator on Thursday also issued another warning, cautioning Republicans that he would be in favor of eliminating the filibuster if a GOP Senate minority sought to repeatedly stonewall Democratic attempts at legislating.
While the senator argued the 60-vote threshold for major legislation “has some important qualities,” the future of the tradition is “really up to the Republicans.”
“If they are going to block everything that comes down the pike, I didn’t come here to sit on my hands and do nothing,” he said. “I came here to try to move this country forward and keep it the greatest country in the world and that requires Congress to be functional.”
“If the Republicans under Mitch Mcconnell’s rule stop everything that comes down then that leaves little choice,” he threatened. He appeared to distinguish between Republicans blocking “things that are basic to our country,” but did not elaborate on what that might encompass.
Tester repeatedly stressed a desire to return to bipartisan legislating, recalling the days when “70 percent of the work” got done “in the middle.”
Asked how he has survived three elections — including in the charged climate of the 2018 midterms — as a Democrat in a state where Trump enjoys broad support, Tester touted what he says is a long record of bipartisan accomplishments. The senator noted that in his last race, he put out an ad that poked fun at his missing fingers from a farming accident, boasting that he wrote more bills that Trump signed into law than he has fingers.
He rejected the premise that the Democratic Party as a whole is shifting leftward, but conceded that some are trying to pull it that way. Tester brushed off fears that rising progressive stars in the party like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could be tied to Democrats, praising the “big tent” nature of the party — a characteristic Ocasio-Cortez has sometimes criticized .
“I wouldn’t be able to pick her out if she was walking down the street,” Tester said, quickly adding: “That’s not a negative comment to AOC, that’s just how big of a role she plays in my life.”