ObamaCare passed in 2010, but it continues to exert a political gravitational pull on Democrats. On Tuesday, six-term Sen. Max Baucus announced he will retire at the end of his term in 2014, rather than seek reelection in deep-red Montana. He is the sixth Democrat to announce his retirement this year, increasing the odds of a Republican take-over of the Senate.
While Baucus faced a competitive race for reelection, he had amassed a $5 million campaign war-chest and hadn’t yet been challenged by a top-tier GOP candidate. Baucus had even broken ranks with his party on gun control, suggesting to many observers that he was preparing for a reelection campaign.
The most likely factor in his decision to retire is the looming implementation of ObamaCare. As Chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, Baucus was a chief architect of Democrats’ overhaul of the health care system. Baucus recently rued that ObamaCare is headed for a “huge train wreck.”
In November, Montana voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative, with almost 70% of the vote, to prohibit the state from enforcing a federal mandate to purchase health insurance. While federal law trumps the ballot initiative, the vote is a good sign of how unpopular ObamaCare is with Montana voters. That voted likely triggered Baucus’ thoughts of retirement.
Democrats are pinning their hopes of retaining the seat on former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat who left office with favorable ratings. He is likely the only chance the party has of keeping the seat, but would face strong-headwinds from positions taken by the national Democrat party.
Since Obama’s reelection, the national Democrat party has lurched far to the left, pushing for gun control, amnesty and higher taxes. It is one thing to run for state office as a Democrat in Montana and quite another to run for federal office. Montana voters are unlikely to want another vote to make Harry Reid Senate Majority Leader.
Baucus’ retirement makes it very likely the GOP will pick up the Montana Senate seat.