Montana

Montana Democrats nominate a really weird new Senate candidate in a last ditch effort to help Harry Reid

Sen. John Walsh’s (D-MT) decision to end his campaign amid allegations that he plagiarized an academic paper he turned in while attending the U.S. Army War College left Montana Democrats scrambling to find someone to run against Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), the Republican nominee in the U.S. Senate race.

Well, with less than 80 days until the election, Democrats selected their replacement nominee over the weekend, choosing state Rep. Amanda Curtis (D-Butte) to go up against Daines, who is viewed as the favorite in the fall:

Curtis, 34, was chosen Saturday as the Democrats’ replacement candidate for Sen. John Walsh, who withdrew from the race earlier this month over plagiarism allegations. She is a high school math teacher from Butte whose political experience amounts to a single term in the Montana Legislature, but she is touting her relative inexperience and blue-collar roots as assets, not liabilities.

She framed her campaign as one that will champion the interests of the working class against those of the wealthy and of corporations, and she put her Republican opponent, Rep. Steve Daines, squarely on the side of the latter.

“This is the fundamental difference between Steve Daines and me,” Curtis said. “He seems like a nice guy with a wonderful family, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand what life is like for the rest of us.”

Fire Harry Reid: New polls show Republicans winning the majority in the Senate

A round of new polling released on Sunday shows that Republican candidates have the edge in enough Senate races to take the majority in the upper chamber in the 2014 mid-term election and then some.

The poll was conducted by YouGov in coordination with CBS News and The New York Times finds that Republicans would win the eight Senate seats, handing them a 53-seat majority. The Upshot notes that, based on the new round of polling, Republicans have a 60 percent chance of taking control of the chamber.

Here’s a look at the most relevant races:

State Democrat

Poll

Voters could hand Republicans a Senate majority if Obama rejects Keystone XL

As Democrats struggle to come up with a coherent message on the proposed Keystone XL, voters in five states with potentially competitive Senate race are signaling that President Barack Obama’s decision on the oil pipeline could loom large when they head to the polls this fall.

Vulnerable “Red State” Senate Democrats have been pressuring Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and other leaders to hold a vote on Keystone XL, though the measure could be a pointless, nonbinding statement of support from the chamber. Republicans, however, want the measure brought up as an amendment to the Shaheen-Portman energy bill, a nonstarter for Democratic leadership.

Democrats are in one helluva pickle on Keystone XL. On one hand they have their radical environmentalist base and big money donors like Tom Steyer. On the other, they have vulnerable members running for reelection in states in which there is support for the oil pipeline.

But utterly meaningless on statements of support in the Senate or even a binding resolution may not be enough for Democrats running in competitive Senate races. New polling, conducted by Hickman Analytics for Consumer Energy Alliance, finds that Democrats could face problems if President Obama rejects Keystone XL.

MT Senate: Newly minted Democrat incumbent trails by 14 points

More than a month after his controversial appointment, Sen. John Walsh (D-MT), has been unable to gain any traction in a race that is looking more and more likely to change hands this fall, making it one of the six seats Republicans need to take control of the Senate.

The latest poll out of Montana, conducted by Rasmussen Reports, finds that Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) holds a 14-point lead, 51/37, over Walsh.

Daines also holds an 18-point lead, 52/34, over another Democratic candidate, former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, who is seen as a long-shot to knock off Walsh in the party’s June 3 primary.

Rather than picking a placeholder, Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) appointed then-Lt. Gov. Walsh to the seat last month after Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) was confirmed to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to China. Baucus was already not running for reelection, having announced his retirement early last year. He wasn’t nominated for the diplomatic post until December. Walsh announced his campaign in October.

Walsh is seen as Democrats’ best shot at keeping the seat in their hands, and they’d hoped that the appointment would give him time to establish himself as someone who is independent of his party and raise his profile.

MT Senate: Ad hits John Walsh on ethics controversy

American Crossroads hits John Walsh

John Walsh, Montana’s newly minted Democratic senator, is being hit over an ethics controversy dating back to his time as adjutant general of the state’s National Guard in a six-figure ad buy from American Crossroads, a conservative political action committee.

“Max Baucus, a 35-year legacy of service,” says the narrator. “Gov. Bulloch could have chosen anyone. Why John Walsh?”

The ad cuts away to news footage from a late-December KXLH story on the controversy, in which the news anchor reports that “a Department of Defense report says that Walsh improperly used his government position for personal gain.”

The questions about Walsh stem from an August 2010 U.S. Army inspector general report which found that the then-adjutant general of the Montana National Guard had improperly used his office for “private gain.”

MT Senate: Walsh appointed to serve out Baucus’ term

John Walsh

Rather than appointing a placeholder to serve the remainder of Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-MT) term, Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) made a move on Friday that Democrats hope will Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D-MT) an edge in November.

Baucus had already declared that he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2014, creating an opportunity for Republicans to gain a seat in the Senate. But when the President Obama appointed Baucus to serve as serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to China, it was quickly hinted that Bullock would choose Walsh, who was already running for the Senate seat, to give him a boost against likely Republican opponent, Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT).

Sure enough, on Friday, a day after the Senate confirmed Baucus’ nomination, that’s exactly what Bullock did. Walsh is the next senator from Montana and he wants you to know how independent he is:

Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D) will be Max Baucus’s replacement in the Senate, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) announced Friday.
[…]
Bullock said when making his decision, he was looking for many of the same qualities he looked for in picking Walsh as his running mate in 2012.

“Today, My friend and my colleague embarks on a new mission. I introduce to you United States Sen. John Walsh,” said Bullock.

Walsh promised to work across the aisle as senator, emphasizing many of his campaign’s themes in his remarks.

New polls show red state Senate Democrats in serious trouble

Senate Democrats running in red states are in serious trouble, according to internal polling released by a Republican super PAC, indicating that control of the chamber is very much in play this fall.

Americans Crossroads, a major Republican super PACs, commissioned polls in seven states, five of which are held by incumbent Senate Democrats. In a memo released on Friday, Steven Law, President and CEO of American Crossroads, detailed the results of the polling:

Virtually all Democrat incumbents in red states and purple states are in trouble – either down or tied in head-to-head contests with their likely GOP opponents, or upside down in approval ratings:

Democratic donors turn eyes to the Senate

Just hours after DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) conceded that Democrats aren’t likely to win control of the House of Representatives this fall, Politico ran a story noting that many high-dollar donors are shifting their focus to the Senate races in which vulnerable Democrats are running:

With Democrats’ grasp on the Senate increasingly tenuous — and the House all but beyond reach — some top party donors and strategists are moving to do something in the midterm election as painful as it is coldblooded: Admit the House can’t be won and go all in to save the Senate.

Their calculation is uncomplicated. With only so much money to go around in an election year that is tilting the GOP’s way, Democrats need to concentrate resources on preserving the chamber they have now. Losing the Senate, they know, could doom whatever hopes Barack Obama has of salvaging the final years of his presidency. 
[…]
Some Democratic operatives think a big chunk of that money should be going to Senate contests instead — and they’re beginning to make that case to wealthy contributors. One senior Democratic strategist who is involved in a number of Senate races said conversations with many of the party’s biggest donors about shifting their giving away from the House and toward the Senate had begun and that, “it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing the results.”

“After the health care rollout and with the start of the new year, Democratic donors are starting to focus on a critical choice they have to make: Donate money to pick up a small handful of House races or defend the Senate majority at all costs so that the president can get something — anything — done,” the strategist said.

Next U.S. Ambassador to China: “I’m no real expert on China”

Let’s give Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) some credit. At least he didn’t try to completely bullshit his way through the confirmation process like George Tunis, who will serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Norway.

But Baucus, who has been tapped to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China, said something yesterday that you don’t want to hear from diplomatic nominee. He admitted yesterday during his confirmation hearing that he is “no real expert on China.”

MT Senate: Ethics questions dog Democratic frontrunner

Democrats had hope that Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D-MT) would give them a shot at keeping control of a Senate seat that seems poised to be taken by Republicans later this year. But Harry Reid’s hand-picked candidate is facing questions over an alleged impropriety that occurred when he oversaw the Montana National Guard.

With Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) slated to serve as President Barack Obama’s next Ambassador to China, it looked as though Walsh would get a boost in the race with an appointment to the Senate by Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT). But the questions over Walsh’s behavior could set him back in what needs to be an error-free campaign.

The questions about Walsh stem from an August 2010 U.S. Army inspector general report which found that the then-adjutant general of the Montana National Guard had improperly used his office for “private gain.”

“The [inspector general] report says Walsh improperly solicited other Guard leaders to join a non-governmental group, the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS),” reported Helena-based KXLH-TV. “Walsh wanted to boost Montana Guard membership in that association because he was running for vice-chairman of the group.”

The report described Walsh’s emails to colleagues as “coercive” and that he had “improperly used government resources,” including his federally-issued computer, to send emails on behalf of NGAUS. The news outlet points out that one of his subordinates described Walsh’s conduct as “very threatening.”


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