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Sen. Jon Tester

Sen. Jon Tester announces his victory on Nov. 7 surrounded by family and supporters in Great Falls, Mont. Tester won re-election to the U.S. Senate against Montana state Auditor Matt Rosendale.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester walked back his comment Wednesday that Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is planning a run for the U.S. Senate in 2020.

Tester, a Democrat, "misheard a question" Tuesday night about whether Bullock, also a Democrat, would challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines in 2020, Tester's staff said.

At an event Tuesday night at American University in Washington, D.C., Tester answered, "Yeah, he’s running. Yeah he is," according to a video posted to Facebook by College Democrats. The video was later removed.

Aaron Murphy, Tester's chief of staff, released a statement Wednesday morning saying Tester "misheard a question."

"Gov. Bullock was the only Democrat in the nation to win a statewide re-election in a state President Trump won in 2016, and Jon knows the governor's focus now is to keep bringing Republicans and Democrats together, to fight dark money in politics, and to find effective policy solutions for Montanans," Murphy said in the statement.

Tester's office said the senator thought he was answering a question about whether Bullock plans to run for president in 2020, but did not say why Tester thinks Bullock is planning a presidential bid.

Tester is a month out from his own re-election to the U.S. Senate, defeating Republican state Auditor Matt Rosendale after President Donald Trump made four trips to the state to campaign against the incumbent.

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Bullock has been mulling his choices for what to do when he terms out of the governor's office in 2020, with rumors including a possible bid for president. Earlier this year he formed a political action committee, called the Big Sky Values PAC, to "share Montana's story." The PAC, which has brought in more than $1.2 million, has funded travel around the country, including three trips to Iowa and another to New Hampshire.

Bullock has also altered his position on firearms in a move some say would increase his appeal to Democrats nationally, saying he would support a semiautomatic ban and universal background checks.

Bullock played down a Senate bid in an interview with the Montana Standard in February, saying, "Candidly, I just don't know if I would find being a senator that compelling."

Bullock's staff pointed to Murphy's statement Wednesday morning. The Associated Press reported Tom Lopach, Bullock's chief of staff, said Wednesday the governor is focused on the legislative session set to convene at the start of January.

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State Bureau reporter for The Independent Record.

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