The big news in Montana politics today is that President Obama plans to announce his intention to nominate Senator Max Baucus to be the next U.S. ambassador to China. If he does, the entire landscape of the 2014 Montana Senate race changes—with an enormous decision facing Governor Bullock, who would appoint a replacement for Baucus.
Under that scenario, Governor Bullock should absolutely appoint John Walsh to the Senate.
The obvious upside is certainly political. Running as Senator Walsh will be better than running as Lieutenant Governor Walsh and he will have the opportunity to establish himself in a more prominent role than as a candidate.
More significantly, appointing Walsh has upside for Montanans. Once he’s elected, he’ll have seniority over the rest of the 2014 Senate class. Appointing a placeholder candidate means appointing someone who will have little power and even less influence in Washington. By appointing Walsh, Bullock would ensure that Montana has a representative in the Senate who can influence legislation from day one instead of merely keeping the seat warm.
And voters would benefit. They’d have the chance to see candidate Walsh as Senator Walsh—and make a better-informed choice in November 2014.
There would certainly be risks for Walsh. Those appointed to seats have not historically been advantaged going into races for their full term, the risk (for Montanans and Walsh as a candidate) is worth the reward.
Still not convinced? Even Bohlinger chief strategist Bob Brigham agreed that Bullock should appoint John Walsh, writing in August- October:
On this issue, we are in absolute agreement.