Few Democrat wins in 2006 were less expected than Jon Tester’s defeat of three-term incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns by roughly 3,500 votes, or one percent, in Montana. Burns’ connection to the Abramoff scandal, his tendency for embarrassing gaffes, and a national Democratic wave led the crew-cutted favorite of the Daily Kos crew to an upset victory.
Rep. Denny Rehberg, a 6-term House Republican, is expected to take on Tester this year in one of the GOP’s best shots to knock off an incumbent Democrat senator. A release from Rehberg’s office stated, “Denny has received a lot of support and encouragement to run for the United States Senate in 2012. He is weighing all of his options carefully and will announce his decision Saturday.” Because Montana has only one House seat, he’s already effectively run statewide every two years, garnering no less than 59 percent of the vote every cycle since 2002. He won 60 percent of the vote in 2010.
The presidential race should help the Republican candidate in the Senate race, but it’s worth noting that Montana was surprisingly close in 2008: McCain 50 percent, Obama 47 percent. In 2004, Bush won here by 20 percentage points.