Former MT Gov. Brian Schweitzer dealt a serious blow to Democrats’ 2014 hopes by announcing on Saturday that he wouldn’t run in the race to replace retiring Dem Sen. Max Baucus. Schweitzer, a popular two-term governor, was seen by national Democrats as the only candidate capable of holding the seat for the party. His decision gives the GOP new hope for taking control of the Senate next year.
Schweitzer’s decision leaves the Democrats without an obvious high-profile candidate to contest the seat. Without a credible candidate, the 2014 political map could narrow further. Republicans are strongly favored to win open Democrat seats in West Virginia and South Dakota. Montana could join that list, putting more attention on states like North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The decision is likely to push Rep. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), a freshman Republican into the race. He defeated a Democrat state Senator 53-43% in 2012, with Democrats running better than expected in the presidential year. Because Montana has just a single congressional seat, a race for Congress is similar to a campaign for Senate, with voters statewide determining both races.
Two Republican state officials have already announced their intention to run for the Senate, but Daines would be the favorite in a primary. He won a 3-way primary in 2012 with over 70% of the vote.