Schweitzer’s Out: Montana Dems in a Tailspin

One week ago today I was live on the Fox Business Network discussing the 2014 US Senate race in Montana.  Towards the end of the interview, I said that if you’re Brian Schweitzer, I don’t know why you would jump into this race.  The recent negative news stories (mostly ignored by many in the Montana media) combined with a general hesitancy to step into the race ( which I felt the Governor expressed when I last ran into him at the Stillwater Mine shareholders meeting in Nye, Montana) led the Governor to step aside, in my opinion.  Not to mention, of course, the sniping from “unnamed Democrats” likely in the camps of Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester (D-MT). 

That being said, the Montana Democratic Party is now in a tailspin trying to figure out how they will hold this US Senate seat.  As for former Governor Brian Schweitzer’s (D-MT) future- both national Dems and Republicans apparently are saying that there is more negative news that could come to light regarding Governor Schweitzer, but barring that, I don’t see Schweitzer disappearing from the political scene down the road.  

As for Montana Democrats, here’s what Democratic consultant (a Schweitzer supporter) Bob Brigham had to say via Twitter:   

Brigham’s got a point.  These unnamed Dems got what they wanted.  Are they happy now?  I guess we’ll see in November of 2014.  

Fox Business Network, whose initial reporting broke a lot of this news,  followed up on the story Monday morning as well. Here’s Stu Varney and David Asman on “Varney & Co.:”

Watch the latest video at

Meanwhile, National Review’s Jim Geraghty asks, “which Democratic ‘tomato can’ will run?”

“I’m used to being in charge of things, getting things done,” Schweitzer said. “Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate is a place where things die.”

Keep that comment in mind for when Schweitzer inevitably endorses the Democratic tomato can that wins the primary. “I tell you, my fellow Montanans, State Senator John Smith is exactly the right man to serve in the place where things die!” Maybe they should nominate a mortician.

The AP broke the news over the weekend:

I love Montana. I want to be here. There are all kinds of people that think I ought to be in the United States Senate,” Schweitzer said. “I never wanted to be in the United States Senate. I kicked the tires. I walked to the edge and looked over.”

But ultimately, he said, “people need to know I am not running for the United States Senate.”

Schweitzer said recent criticism over politically active nonprofits connected to him had no bearing on the decision and said such criticism isn’t new. 

Per Fox News:

Republicans need to pick up six seats to win back the majority. At the same time they must defend just 14 incumbents compared to 21 for Democrats. Among them are seven won by 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

As Schweitzer was mulling his options, the Montana Republican Party circulated a 2010 Internal Revenue Service form that showed a politically active nonprofit group called The Council for a Sustainable America used the same Helena post office box used for Schweitzer’s 2008 re-election campaign and was signed by David Gallik, the state commissioner of political practices appointed by Schweitzer at the time.

Read more:

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza has this with “The Fix:”

Schweitzer’s no-go decision is bad on two levels for Democrats. In Montana, it takes a seat considered a likely hold for the party and turns it into — at least at first glance — a likely pickup for Republicans. Nationally, Montana becomes the third open Democratic seat — West Virginia and South Dakota are the others — for which the party’s chances look slim, a major development given that Republicans need six seats to reclaim the majority.

The field was effectively frozen as Schweitzer made up his mind. With him not running, look for Rep. Steve Daines (R) to come under heavy pressure to make the race. And while Democrats talk about state schools superintendent Denise Juneau and state auditor Monica Lindeen, neither woman has the proven electoral record (or even close to it) of Schweitzer.

One of the questions now- will Congressman Steve Daines (R-MT) jump into the race?  From MTN’s Marnee Banks:

Republican Congressman Steve Daines said this news isn’t affecting his decision about whether or not to try and switch chambers.

“My focus is fixed on serving the people of Montana and doing the job they sent me to do,” Daines said. “I will continue to give this decision the consideration it deserves, and am still taking time to talk with my family and the people of Montana about how I can best be of service to our state.”

Wilmer Suggests Dems Should Focus on House Seat:

State Rep. Franke Wilmer, D-Bozeman, who ran for the U.S. House last year, said she wants to wait to see if U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., jumps to the Senate before deciding.

She pointed to Daines’ fundraising efforts so far. He reported that he raised $433,000 for the quarter ending June 30 and had about $600,000 left in the bank. Wilmer said Daines would have a financial advantage that would be tough to compete with.

“If Daines runs for the Senate, we have a better chance of winning the House,” Wilmer said.

 Baucus’ reaction, per The Helena IR:

Baucus: “I know what a tough choice this was for Brian, and I respect that he made the best decision for himself and his family. No one understands the pull of wanting to be home in Montana better than I do. Brian was a great governor, and there’s no question he would have made an excellent candidate. But we still have a wide field of qualified Montana Democrats who can run — and win — this seat.”

 But the most powerful report came from Politico’s Manu Raju. Here’s an excerpt via Politico Playbook:

2014 WATCH – “Schweitzer rekindles GOP Senate hopes,” by Manu Raju : “Former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s surprise announcement Saturday that he won’t run for Senate in Montana imperils Democrats’ chances of holding the seat and could further narrow an ever-shrinking 2014 Senate map. Already, Republicans are favored to win two seats left vacant by Democratic retirements – in West Virginia and South Dakota – and the Schweitzer move will make it much easier for the GOP to win in Montana. That means the battle for the majority will likely be fought in a handful of red states with Democratic incumbents, including North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. To capture the net six seats it needs to take back the majority in 2014, the GOP will also have to successfully defend Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and avoid a bloody primary in Georgia that could give Democrats an opening in the red state. Schweitzer roiled the Senate landscape when he told AP on Saturday that he wants to stay in Montana rather than move to Washington …

“[Schweitzer’s] potential candidacy was … raising red flags within the party: After weeks of courting the 57-year-old Schweitzer, Democratic leaders reversed course in recent days . Scrutinizing Schweitzer’s past, they concluded there was too much ammunition for Republicans to use against him in the campaign to replace the retiring veteran Democrat Max Baucus … Polls had shown the … folksy ex-governor as a favorite in the race … Schweitzer had been hit with a series of damaging stories about his ties to ‘secret money’ and a nonprofit group run by former aides. But sources said the laundry list of opposition research went much deeper – and could have crippled a Schweitzer campaign … Moreover, there was fear that Schweitzer’s penchant for off-the-cuff remarks would hurt his ability to respond … Schweitzer ended a long Republican run of control of the governor’s office when he was first elected in 2004. But he frequently sparred with fellow top Democrats in the state, including Baucus and Sen. Jon Tester. …

National Journal also pointed out that Democratic leaders are also now claiming that they started to question Schweitzer’s candidacy:

“But Democratic sources said the amount of opposition research on the former governor painted a grim picture. A report in the Great Falls Tribune tomorrow will outline Schweitzer’s ties with a dark money organization, which may have been deeper than Schweitzer had let on….

…Schweitzer’s move was a sudden reversal. He had hired staff for an eventual campaign, and he even filled out papers to formally file for office, according to a source familiar with his plans. He had told both Montana and national Democrats he was fully committed to the race.”

Washington Post:  Republicans immediately sought credit for pushing Schweitzer out of the race.

“Just two days ago, Senate Democrats were quoted promising Brian Schweitzer tremendous resources to get in the race,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “We did our homework and there was a lot of rust under Schweitzer’s hood – a lot of rust.”

Among other potential Democratic recruits are state Supreme Court Justice Brian Morris, state Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, state schools superintendent Denise Juneau, state insurance commissioner Monica Lindeen and Stephanie Schriock, the president of the Democratic women’s group Emily’s List.

For Schweitzer, the most favorable report following his announcement this weekend came from former Arkansas Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who said this at the close of Monday’s Huckabee Report:

Schweitzer offered his own reason.  He said he wants to live in Montana and wear jeans- not go to Washington where he’d have to wear his suit, and his dog isn’t welcome.  Ironically, that attitude is probably why he’s the only Democrat who could win in Montana. 

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