Posted: Apr 27, 2013 8:51 AM by Drew Trafton - MTN News
Updated: Apr 27, 2013 8:52 AM
BILLINGS - It may come as no surprise to those well attuned to the world of Montana politics that almost immediately after Senator Max Baucus announced that he would not be seeking a seventh term in the United States Senate, the list of potential candidates interested in his soon-to-be vacant seat started to grow.
And now, less than a week after that big news hit unexpectedly, a Montana political analyst says one potential candidate in particular will likely dictate the direction of Montana's U.S. Senate race in 2014.
"If you kind of step back for a moment, at the end of the day, the answer to all these questions depend on one person: Brian Schweitzer," said Montana State University Associate Professor of Political Science, David Parker. "What he does determines what this race looks like, who else runs, and how much money and attention it's going to get."
Parker believes if Schweitzer enters the race, which he thinks is likely, the Republicans may feel their best option is to nominate a candidate also well-known and popular with Montanans.
Parker says three potential candidates on the Republican side fit that description the best: recently elected Congressman Steve Daines, former Congressman Denny Rehberg, and another popular former governor of Montana, Marc Racicot.
In each perspective matchup, Parker still gives the early edge to Schweitzer--who the political scientist says could use a victorious Senate campaign to vault to higher aspirations in the nation's capital.
Many political news organizations have been pointing toward Schweitzer as a dark horse presidential candidate in 2016 and beyond.
"Running for the presidency from Montana is hard, simply because we're not connected very well to the rest of the country," said Parker. "We're a little bit isolated and, on top of that, we're not a rich state. We don't have a lot of money to support a presidential campaign. Getting to the Senate, you can develop those networks and you can run for a VP slot or eventually run for president."
However, for the time being, Schweitzer isn't tipping his hand one way or another about his intention.
"How about-- I'll do it different-- I'll ask the question, (then) I'll answer it," said Schweitzer during a brief and mostly self-conducted Friday afternoon phone interview. "‘First question: Are you running for United States Senate?' Maybe."
"‘When are you going to announce whether you will or you won't,'" he asked himself. "Later."
And according to Parker's reasoning, that's likely the response we'll get from Schweitzer for months to come.
"He's going to delay his decision as long as he can because the longer he delays, the longer and the harder it is for the other people to make the decision to jump in."
According to numerous sources, here's a working list of potential candidates who have expressed interest or are rumored to have interest in running for Montana's U.S. Senate seat in 2014:
Corey Stapleton, Champ Edmunds, Steve Daines, Denny Rehberg, Marc Racicot, Ryan Zinke, Jon Sonju, Matt Rosendale, Jason Priest, Bill Mercer.
Brian Schweitzer, Denise Juneau, Linda McCulloch, Monica Lindeen, John Walsh, Jesse Laslovich