Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines. Credit: courtesy photo / Steve Daines

HELENA—U.S. Sen. Steve Daines told Republican convention delegates Friday night that their support for President Donald Trump, and Daines, is critical in the 2020 elections as a bulwark against socialism.

“It’s literally about freedom vs. socialism in 2020,” Daines told a large dinner crowd at the Montana Republican Party State Officers’ Convention. “We must preserve the firewall of freedom we have in the U.S. Senate. We must protect America from socialism.”

Daines said his warning came as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., has been actively defending socialism in recent days. Daines criticized Democrats backing the Green New Deal, supporting the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and backing “the most radical pro-abortion” bills.

“We must protect the most vulnerable in our society — the elderly, the disabled, and the unborn,” Daines said.

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He called the Republican-controlled Senate “the firewall of freedom,” noting that Vice President Mike Pence, as Senate president, broke 13 tie votes in the Senate his first two years in office. That’s the most ties broken by any vice president since 1873, according to Daines. The Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two Independents who caucus with Democrats.

“I jokingly told the vice president, ‘Mr. Vice President, you’re like the kicker we bring in during overtime,’” Daines said. “When you see Mike Pence warming up his leg, you know we’re going to win the game.”

Daines, 56, is seeking his second six-year term in Congress. He thanked the audience for helping him become the first Republican in 101 years to hold his Senate seat.

“Had your Montana senator not been a Republican, there would not have been 13 ties,” Daines said.

He told the Republicans that their votes in 2020 have never been more critical: to re-elect President Donald Trump, to re-elect Daines, to elect the state’s first Republican governor in 16 years, to hold on to other top statewide offices, and to expand long-standing conservative majorities in the Republican-controlled Montana House and Senate.

He noted that Pence was in Billings Wednesday when he could have been anywhere. The vice president was here because Montana is important, the senator said.

“I need you, the president needs you,” Daines said.

So far, the only Democrat running against Daines is Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins.  A number of Democrats have pleaded in vain with Gov. Steve Bullock to drop his long-shot bid for the presidency and join the Senate race.

Daines praised Trump for cutting taxes and federal regulations and appointing conservative federal judges who will be on the bench for many years.

Daines endorsed Trump’s opposition to abortion, calling him “the most pro-life president in the history of our country.”

The Montana senator made no mention of various investigations into Trump over accusations of obstruction of justice and collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential race.

Charles Johnson is veteran Montana political and state government reporter.