MONTANA CITY, Mont. — Matt Rosendale, the Republican Senate nominee, declined to address President Trump’s rally riff on Rep. Greg Gianforte’s assault on a reporter during a 2017 special election campaign.

“It’s background noise,” Rosendale told the Washington Examiner on Friday, choosing not to elaborate further after touring a cement plant near Helena, the state capital. Trump, during a packed rally in Missoula on Thursday, praises Gianforte for the misdemeanor assault in off the cuff remarks.

[Related: White House Correspondents' Association slams Trump's 'praise for a violent assault' on reporter]

The crowd, jammed into an airplane hanger at the Missoula airport, loved it, responding with laughter and applause. Rosendale declined to comment on the audience reaction as well. “Background noise,” he repeated.

Rosendale is closing in on Sen. Jon Tester in the final weeks of the campaign, after it had appeared the Democratic incumbent might walk away with the contest. Rosendale said Trump’s visit to the state, and the energy he sparks among Republicans here, is a major factor in why this race has become so competitive.