max baucus

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)

Instead of facing a tough re-election next year it looks like Montana Senator Max Baucus (D) will instead retire. Two senior Democratic strategists told the Washington Post of Baucus plans and the story has been confirmed by the AP.

Baucus has been Montana’s Senator since 1978 and seniority has allowed him to chair the incredibly powerful Senate Finance Committee. His retirement will not only create a political opening in the state but a leadership opening in the caucus as well.

Unlike most retirements in red states this one may end up actually being good news for the Democratic Party. While Baucus is a prolific fundraiser with a long history in the state he has recently become unpopular. Polling by PPP in February found Baucus’s job approval rating to be negative and him losing by several points to two possible Republicans.

With Baucus out the path is now clear for former Gov. Brian Schweitzer to run for Senate. The former governor has shown an interest in a possible run but hasn’t yet said what his future plans are.

Unlikely Baucus, Schweitzer is still popular in his state. As a result he polls significantly better in potential general election match ups. Schweitzer is also noticeably more progressive than Baucus on several issues so he could have an easier time rallying the Democratic base in a low turnout midterm election.

Photo by Center for American Progress Action Fund released under Creative Commons License