A Big Break for the GOP in Montana

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Some good Saturday news for the GOP. Per USA Today:

HELENA, Mont. (AP) – Popular former Gov. Brian Schweitzer says he will not run for Montana’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2014.

The Democrat tells The Associated Press on Saturday he doesn’t want to leave Montana and go to Washington, D.C.

Schweitzer says he felt compelled to consider the race because many in his party said they needed him to run.

He was considered the best chance Democrats have to hold onto the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus next year.

That is exactly what Brian Schweitzer was. When Max Baucus announced his retirement, many concluded that the Democrats had dodged a bullet, and they sought to replace Baucus, who they had thought likely to lose, with Schweitzer, who they thought likely to win. This was MSNBC at the time:

Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus’s decision to retire in 2014 scrambles the Senate landscape, but if former Gov. Brian Schweitzer runs, Democrats could be in an even better position to retain the seat.

If Democrats do turn to Schweitzer, he may even run stronger in the Treasure State than Baucus. According to one Democrat watching the race, “Schweitzer would actually be an upgrade.” Known for his folksy style and trademark bolo tie, the popular Schweitzer was term-limited out in 2012. He lost a 2000 Senate race to Republican Conrad Burns but parlayed that race into a successful run for governor in 2004. Tester defeated Burns in 2006.

In a February poll from Democratic-aligned Public Policy Polling, Schweitzer led Baucus in a potential primary match-up, and while Baucus trailed some of his potential GOP opponents, Schweitzer polled stronger. With all voters, 56% viewed Schweitzer favorably.

Now? You’d have to favor Montana as a Republican pick-up.