Governor Schweitzer is out of the running for the 2014 Senate race, leading Democrats to wonder who might run for the Baucus seat and whether or not any of those potential candidates can defeat the Republican’s presumptive candidate, Steve Daines.
After a few moments of despair this morning, I think Democrats can retain the seat, but it’s going to be a tremendous challenge. A tremendous challenge. The Republicans are going to pour enormous resources into this race, because they see the Senate in reach—and one can only assume that sleaze merchants like some version of American Tradition Partnership and the Watchdog are already revving up their smear machines.
Democrats running in primaries in Montana have to strike a challenging balance. They need to remain viable in general elections without alienating moderate voters, but I think that Democrats who lose in Montana are often so concerned about the latter that they forget the importance of fighting for Democratic principles. They emerge victorious from primary season, but without any army behind them.
The candidate who emerges from a Democratic primary in Montana needs to remember that Jon Tester won in 2006 and 2012 precisely because he had thousands of volunteers knocking on doors, making phone calls, and registering their friends to vote. Those volunteers were there because they knew Tester stood for strong Democratic principles—and won’t be there for a candidate who runs a safe race to the middle.
The problem with the House field from 2012, in my view, was that none of the candidates generated any real passion beyond a small group of supporters. Senator Tester won his races (starting in the primary) in 2006 by firing up the base. His team recognized that Burns and Rehberg were going to try to depict him as a radical out of touch with Montana, so it couldn’t hurt him to associate with (and represent) Democratic constituencies.
As for Governor Schweitzer, I doubt we’ve seen the last of him on the political stage—and even if we have, I’d like to thank him for his years of service as Montana’s governor. Without his efforts, this state would look very different than it does today. He cut short a reactionary Republican agenda that would have undermined social services, education, the environment, reproductive rights, and the very identity of Montana. Thanks for standing up for us, Governor.
If there is any truth to the terrible Politico reporting that Democratic sniping against Schweitzer helped push him out of the race, I hope those Democrats are terribly satisfied with themselves. There’s nothing more energizing to Democratic candidates and supporters than knowing that people within the party are going to tear down candidates who don’t massage their egos sufficiently.