Big Sky’s the Limit


Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (L), D-MT, speaks before US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testimony to Senate Finance Committee on the debt limit in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on October 10, 2013.
National Journal
Alex Roarty
Dec. 19, 2013, 6:45 a.m.

On Wed­nes­day, the Montana Sen­ate race changed dra­mat­ic­ally for the third time. Max Baucus‘s sud­den re­tire­ment from the Sen­ate and former Gov. Bri­an Sch­weitzer‘s (D) sur­prise de­cision to pass on the race shif­ted what looked like a sol­id Demo­crat­ic seat firmly in­to the GOP camp. Now, with Baucus headed to China be­fore his term is up, Demo­crats will get to rally be­hind his ap­poin­ted re­place­ment, an in­cum­bent seek­ing elec­tion.

— It would count as a shock if Gov. Steve Bul­lock (D) didn’t tap his lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor, John Walsh (D), for the post. He was already the Demo­crat­ic fron­trun­ner for the seat, and Bul­lock has been bullish about his pro­spects. Oth­ers, in­clud­ing Walsh’s primary op­pon­ent, former Lt. Gov. John Bollinger (D), are call­ing on the gov­ernor to ap­point a care­taker, but do­ing so might cost his party its best (and maybe only) chance of win­ning next year’s race.

— Walsh’s ad­vant­ages would be nu­mer­ous: As an in­cum­bent, his name ID and fun­drais­ing could surge. His vot­ing re­cord would be closely scru­tin­ized, but a few months on the job would of­fer Big Sky voters a chance to see Sen­at­or Walsh in ac­tion. Bar­ring a ma­jor mis­take, the time could be in­valu­able as he states his case in Novem­ber.

— He would, however, have to find a new ra­tionale for run­ning — so far he’s po­si­tioned him­self as an out­sider against fresh­man Rep. Steve Daines (R), and that doesn’t work so well when you’re already serving in the Sen­ate. And Re­pub­lic­ans say ap­point­ing Walsh to the seat uni­lat­er­ally will leave a bad taste in the mouths of voters, a con­tro­versy they will hope hangs over his en­tire cam­paign. The NR­SC has already tagged the up­com­ing ap­point­ment as the “Big Sky Buy-Off.”

Walsh will also have to see wheth­er Bo­hlinger bows out of the race. But make no mis­take, Baucus’s exit is good news for Demo­crats. They don’t enter as a fa­vor­ite by any means, but the race sud­denly looks a lot more like a toss-up than just a day ago.

What We're Following See More »
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
3 days ago

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
3 days ago

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
3 days ago

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
3 days ago

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
2 days ago

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.