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If you are a Democrat that really wants to retain the Senate Majority, today is not a good day for us. With the bevy of retirements from Team Blue this year in addition to Democrats serving in red states, it was already looking like a tall task for Democrats to play offensive.
Today’s news though feels like a dagger to Democratic hearts as news has leaked out that former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer will not make a run for the seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Max Baucus. Schweitzer was immensely popular in Montana during his tenure as Governor and also could’ve cleared the field on both sides of the party.
Insiders expected Schweitzer, who openly dissed Washington D.C. every chance he got, to make the plunge but now, attention turns to the rest of the Democratic Montana bench which does offer some promise unlike other states. Montana is home to Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat who won a contested reelection bid in 2012 and Gov. Steve Bullock was also elected in that same cycle. So unlike other states in the surrounding area, Montana has no qualms about electing a Democrat.
Speculation now rests though on who will be the next best bet for the Democratic Party. Denise Juneau, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, is looking at the race as is state insurance commissioner Monica Lindeen and EMILY’s list President Stephanie Schriock. All who are decent candidates in their own right and Schriock could raise plenty of money easily though Montana is a state without a major media market.
When making the argument on who would be the best bet, Juneau seems to be the one who would have the most support though Lindeen safely won her two elections by high single digit margins. Juneau squeaked out challenger Sandy Welch by about half a percentage point in 2012 while Lindeen won by around 8%.
Nonetheless this seat is now dangerously close to “toss-up” territory or even leaning Republican given the lack of a big name Democrat in the race. However, I wouldn’t completely give up on this seat either; North Dakota is a much redder state and still elected Heidi Heitkamp to replace retiring Democrat Kent Conrad.
One thing is for sure though, Democrats are going to be fighting a bit uphill to retain this seat and its going to take a big fight for them to keep it. Republicans must be salivating at their attempts to turn this seat red.