Republican recognize that they only need to win three Senate seats in the most of conservative of states — Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska — and Mitch McConnell could be a Majority Leader in 2015. (That is, if McConnell can hold onto his own Kentucky seat.) The latest developments underline how punishing the map is for Democrats for 2014, and little margin for error they have.

Democrats can afford to lose up to five Senate seats and still maintain their majority, but they already risk conceding over half that number before campaigning even gets underway.

Schweitzer was the type of grade-A recruit who could nearly guarantee victory despite Montana’s Republican leanings. His near-universal name recognition, blunt outspokenness, and statewide organization made him a heavy favorite, especially when Republicans had yet to field a first-tier challenger. Big Sky Country was beginning to look like a long-shot for the GOP.

But somewhere along the way, Schweitzer got cold feet. Montana Democratic officials were expecting Schweitzer to announce his campaign earlier this week, and were caught by surprise when they didn’t hear from the former governor. Democrats are claiming — after the fact — that they were concerned about vulnerabilities in his background, but Republicans claim that the difficult political environment for Democrats in Montana also played a role.