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Schweitzer non-candidacy for Montana Senate seat is a gift to Republicans

Schweitzer would have been favored to keep the seat blue

The surprise announcement this morning by former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer that he will NOT seek the Democratic nomination for his state’s the open Senate seat in 2014 is a blow Democratic hopes of hanging onto its majority in the midterms.

There’s unanimous agreement that Schweitzer would have been favored to hold the seat of retiring Democrat Max Baucus, that no other Montana Democrat is as well positioned, and that — Montana being a state in which Mitt Romney outpolled Pres. Obama last year by 13.5 percentage points — the seat must now be rated as leaning Republican until further developments.

Republicans would need to gain six seats next year to reach 51 in the Senate. That’s a heavy lift. But, as Nate Cohn put it in the New Republican this morning, the Schweitzer announcement makes the Republican hope for a majority more “plausible.”

In addition to Baucus, two other Democratic Senate incumbents are retiring in states that went heavily for Romney — that would be West Virginia and South Dakota. If the Repubs pick up those three, as currently seems like the safer bet, they will then go hunting for vulnerable Dem incumbents in Red states. That would include Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Mark Begich of Alaska. Of course that leaves aside potential Dem pickups, although that list is a lot shorter.

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If you need more, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post’s political blog “The Fix” mentions a whole bunch of permutations. But his headline called Schweitzer’s decision “a gift to the GOP.”