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Republicans receive a major boost in Montana

Democrat Brian Schweitzer, the former governor of Montana, has announced that he won’t run for the Senate. The surprise announcement increases the likelihood that Republicans will pick up the Senate seat now held by Democrat Max Baucus, who is stepping down.

The Republicans are already heavily favored to pick up seats in South Dakota and West Virginia. A Montana pick-up would leave them needing to gain only three more seats, assuming they can hold the 12 seats they must defend in 2014. Republicans are currently favored in all 14 of these races.

In addition to South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana, the Dems must defend seats in four other states that Mitt Romney carried. They are North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alaska. If the Republicans prevail in three of these four states, their chances of getting to 51 are good, assuming they now pick up Montana.

I’m no expert in Montana politics. But I agree with the conventional wisdom, which comes through in this account by Politico, that the Democrats will have great difficulty holding the Montana seat with Schweitzer out.

Polls showed Schweitzer running basically even with the most probable Republican choice, Rep. Steve Daines. By contrast, they show the minnows who now form the Democratic candidate pool in Montana running more than ten points behind Daines.

Daines, however, apparently has not decided whether to run. Perhaps Schweitzer’s decision will encourage him to do so.

As for Schweitzer, he’s hell on wheels as a stump speaker. The Dems employed him to speak on the last night of their national convention. He revved up the crowd rather effectively by trotting out the old “that dog won’t hunt” line. Anyone who can make that cliché work is talented, albeit a hack.

For more than one reason, I’m glad to see the back of Schweitzer.

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