Will a Democratic candidate for Senate in Montana please stand up?; Update: Candidate found?
posted at 10:01 am on August 8, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
Theoretically, Senator John Walsh’s withdrawal from the 2014 election left the Democrats enough time to find another candidate to put on the ballot. They have until August 20th to nominate a candidate, so Montana Democrats don’t have to find a judge to allow a Torricelli Switch. With less than 90 days to go, however, no one seems to want the job, including the one man who would have given them the best opportunity to remain competitive:
Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer says he won’t run for U.S. Senate after Sen. John Walsh dropped his election campaign Thursday. …
Schweitzer announced that he wouldn’t run on Twitter and confirmed it to The Associated Press. He said in a Facebook post that he was flattered his name was considered, and that he’ll support whoever emerges as the candidate.
Earlier Thursday, Walsh said in a statement to supporters that he is leaving the race but will keep the seat he was appointed to until his term ends in January 2015.
This was Schweitzer’s second demurral. He had an opportunity to run for this seat long before Walsh got appointed to fill out the remainder of Max Baucus’ term and get a leg up on the midterms. Schweitzer passed at the time, as most presumed he wanted to run a populist campaign for President. Then came his “gaydar” comment about Eric Cantor and a few other impolitic bon mots, and now Schweitzer apparently just wants some obscurity for a while.
While Democrats in other parts of the country may breathe a sigh of relief for avoiding the burden of Schweitzer’s comments, their brethren in Montana have to lament losing their best shot at offering a competitive challenge to Steve Daines, who was favored to beat Walsh even before the plagiarism scandal. After Plan B collapsed, so did Plans C, D, and E, according to Rebecca Berg at the Washington Examiner:
The candidate will need to launch a campaign with only three months until Election Day, for a Senate seat most Democrats have given up on winning. “I think it’s accepted as a lost cause at this point,” said one Democratic strategist with ties to Montana.
These Democrats have said they won’t run, but at least some people in their party are floating the idea in one last effort to keep the Senate seat in play[.]
Berg goes down the speculative list that emerged when Walsh suspended his campaign earlier this week. EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock declined yesterday, while former NARAL president Nancy Keenan hasn’t commented. Keenan just came back to Montana after 13 years in Washington, though, and even while Allahpundit is correct in that the anti-abortion impulse may not be as strong in Montana, neither is NARAL’s abortion-on-demand-at-any-point absolutism, either. Berg notes two names not on Politico’s list, former legislators Carol and Pat Williams, who are also married to each other — and both of whom declined to jump in. The only name left besides Keenan is John Bohlinger, who couldn’t get to 25% in the Democratic primary this year.
At some point, Democrats have to give strong consideration to conceding the seat to Daines. He’s going to win it anyway, and putting up a candidate without any name power in Montana will force them to spend money on the race to maintain their credibility. Why waste the resources, especially for either a Democrat who lost by 50 points in his own party’s primary or for an all-but-carpetbagging abortion absolutist in a red state? Just tossing anyone up against Daines would have a strong whiff of desperation that might infect the rest of their races in Montana — especially if the nominee has to jump belatedly into a campaign and falls flat on his/her face. Schweitzer was their best opportunity to maintain the façade of credibility, even with the “gaydar” comments. They should take a hint from his withdrawal and cut their losses.
CNN’s panel notes that there wasn’t a rush to get in the race after Walsh’s exit:
That should tell them something, too.
Update: Democrats may have a candidate after all, but their odds look longer than ever:
Montana state Rep. Franke Wilmer (D) is moving towards a bid for Sen. John Walsh’s (D-Mont.) seat less than a day after Walsh announced he’s dropping his campaign.
Wilmer, who lost a 2012 House primary, is a Montana State University professor and favorite of some progressive activists in the state. She’d face very long odds of defeating Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who has run a strong campaign and led Walsh by large margins in recent polling.
That’s putting it mildly. Montana is already a deep-red state, where Democrats who appeal statewide usually take a centrist line. A progressive academic is about as good of a fit there as in, oh, Texas. Putting that kind of a candidate on the ticket in Montana might allow the GOP to nationalize the race in a way that will hurt supposed centrists in Georgia, Kentucky, and elsewhere, too, especially if she gets significant press.
Democrats have to make a choice at their August 16th convention. “None of the above” might still be their best option.