BILLINGS – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie derided Montana Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester on Friday as a “phony” who does not represent the state’s values as he urged Republicans to rally behind the campaign of Tester challenger Denny Rehberg.
The outspoken Republican governor spoke at a $250-per-person fundraising reception with Rehberg in Billings that drew about 60 supporters.
Christie said Tester has turned his back on Montana since his election six years ago by establishing close relationships with lobbyists and lining up behind Democratic leaders like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
By contrast, Christie said Rehberg has remained true to his constituents during six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“You know Denny Rehberg’s not caught up in Potomac fever,” Christie said. “Denny Rehberg is the real deal, and Jon Tester is a phony.”
Christie has been popular within his party this election cycle, campaigning aggressively for Republican candidates in a number of states and for presidential nominee Mitt Romney. He considered entering the presidential race last year but decided against it.
Rehberg quipped that Christie “probably has better name recognition than I do.” He later added that Christie’s election over an incumbent governor, Democrat Jon Corzine, bore similarities to what Rehberg hopes to accomplish on Election Day.
Tester’s campaign spokesman, Aaron Murphy, responded to Christie’s remarks in part by criticizing Rehberg’s claim to be a rancher even though much of his family ranch has been converted into a subdivision.
“That’s as phony as phony gets,” Murphy said.
Earlier Friday, Christie appeared at an event in Bozeman with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill, who is challenging Democrat Attorney General Steve Bullock in the race to replace Gov. Brian Schweitzer.