Matt Rosendale gets 2022 endorsement call from President Donald Trump
U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale receives a call from former President Donald Trump Nov. 15, 2021 notifying him of Trump’s decision to endorse Rosendale's 2022 re-election bid Credit: Courtesy Matt Rosendale

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Of the many unanswered questions about Montana’s high-profile but still fledgling 2024 U.S. Senate race, here’s one that’s especially relevant at this stage of the campaign: In the event of a contested Republican primary next June, who will former (and, if he gets his way, future) President Donald Trump endorse? 

On Monday, state Rep. Steven Galloway, R-Great Falls, sought a definitive answer to that question, asking Trump explicitly to endorse current Congressman Matt Rosendale — a Republican hardliner whose entry into the Senate race, while not yet official, seems all but guaranteed — over Bozeman businessman Tim Sheehy, the current party standard bearer in the GOP’s bid to topple Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester next year. 

Trump, who said he’s only just beginning to look at the race, was noncommittal, promising only that he’d take Galloway’s request under consideration. 

“Do you know why he hasn’t declared? He’s probably waiting for my endorsement,” the former president speculated. 

The exchange took place during a video call set up by the national House Freedom Caucus between Trump and members of state freedom caucuses across the country, according to state Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton, who chairs the Montana Freedom Caucus and posted an excerpt of the call to her Instagram page

The local caucuses are members of the State Freedom Caucus Network, a national group affiliated with the House Freedom Caucus. Rosendale is a prominent member of the federal caucus, and gained some national notoriety during contentious negotiations over the speakership of California Republican Kevin McCarthy earlier this year.

During the call, Galloway called Rosendale a “stalwart” of the House Freedom Caucus and a conservative with a “100% constitutional voting record.” Galloway then took some shots at Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL who has the backing of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Montana Sen. Steve Daines and other key Republicans, deriding him as a millionaire with no political experience and lacking Rosendale’s grassroots support.

“The RINO establishment is supporting Sheehy,” Galloway continued. For the benefit of readers who don’t spend their workdays parsing the rhetoric of right-wing GOP activists, “RINO” is short for “Republican in Name Only.” 

Trump didn’t directly address that critique or say whether he’s spoken with Sheehy. He asked Galloway whether he feels Rosendale would do better against Tester in 2024 than he did in 2018, when the then-state auditor handed Tester the only majority victory of his electoral career. Trump rallied for Rosendale in Montana multiple times that year, and said Monday he was disappointed Rosendale lost despite his help. 

Galloway said he is sure Rosendale will win, and attributed the loss in 2018 to an expensive primary (against Russ Fagg, Troy Downing and Al Olszewski) that sapped Rosendale’s resources ahead of a general contest with Tester, an adept incumbent fundraiser. Galloway did not indicate how that dynamic might be different in a 2024 primary against multi-millionaire Sheehy.

Rosendale, who was elected to Congress in 2020, has been playing hard to get, showing signs of a bid for Senate but not making anything official. National media has repeatedly reported that he’s planning a run. On social media and through his spokespeople, he’s been intensely critical of Sheehy and emphasized his own favorability compared to the rookie candidate. But as of now, his office told NBC News this morning, he’s yet to make a decision. 

Sheehy formally declared his candidacy in June. Clancy businessman Jeremy Mygland will also be on the Republican ballot.

Rosendale received Trump’s endorsement in his 2018 Senate run and in subsequent campaigns for Congress. But their relationship is complicated. CNN reported earlier this year that Trump explicitly said he would not endorse Rosendale, though Rosendale’s office denied that version of events. Trump is also at odds with the super PAC Club for Growth, a major financial backer of Rosendale in past campaigns. 

Tester, Montana’s only statewide-elected Democrat, is considered by political observers to be a vulnerable incumbent. Democrats hold a two-seat majority in the U.S. Senate. 


Raised in Arizona, Arren is no stranger to the issues impacting Western states, having a keen interest in the politics of land, transportation and housing. Prior to moving to Montana, Arren was a statehouse reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times and covered agricultural and trade policy for Politico in Washington, D.C. In Montana, he has carved out a niche in shoe-leather heavy muckraking based on public documents and deep sourcing that keeps elected officials uncomfortable and the public better informed.