At the end of the 2012 election cycle, then-Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) said his Montana political career was at an end. Losing to Sen. Jon Tester (D) by three points, 45-48 percent, even though Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was racking up a 55-42 percent Montana margin over President Obama, the six-term congressman and former lieutenant governor said he would not again seek political office.
Now, with Sen. Max Baucus (D) announcing that he will not run in 2014, Rehberg may be changing his tune. “As to what the future holds, ever since Max (Sen. Baucus) announced his retirement two days ago my phone has been ringing off the hook,” Rehberg said. “The encouragement I’ve been getting from Montanans to take a serious look at this race has been overwhelming. I owe it to them, and to all the folks who I’ve served over the years, to keep listening and see how things develop. I’m not ruling anything out at this point.”
The top potential candidate is former Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer. If he decides to run, with his high favorability ratings that have continued into his retirement, it will be very difficult for Republicans to beat him. Conversely, should Schweitzer not enter the race and Rehberg run for the Republicans, he would likely become the decided favorite and the GOP would be in strong conversion position.
The Baucus retirement has clearly changed the outlook for the Montana Senate race. Until the candidates identify themselves, however, this race will remain in a state of flux.
Schock, Pingree Say No
Two US House members who have been mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidates in their respective states each publicly removed themselves from further talk about a 2014 statewide campaign. Republican Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) and Democrat Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) both confirmed that they will seek re-election to their current positions.
Schock would have had a difficult road, as any Republican does, in heavily Democratic Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has poor job approval ratings and is clearly vulnerable, but he is more than likely to face his most difficult challenge in the Democratic primary particularly if Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) decides to challenge him as most now believe she will.
Rep. Pingree is in a much different situation. While Maine is typically more receptive to Democrats than Republicans and incumbent Gov. Paul LePage (R) is susceptible to defeat, another three-way campaign again casts the Democratic gubernatorial prospects under a cloud of uncertainty.
In 2010, LePage was elected in a three-way campaign, as he defeated Independent Eliot Cutler and Democrat Libby Mitchell. LePage placed first, but with only 38 percent of the vote as Cutler placed a close second. With the Independent candidate already announcing that he will seek a re-match, and former governor John Baldacci not denying that he may again become a candidate and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) also actively considering running, a Pingree gubernatorial campaign had high potential to become lost in the shuffle. Such was evident to her, and one key reason that she will remain in the House.