Montana Senate Race Changes Course with Max Baucus Out

Baucus retirement leaves seat open to former, popular Montana governor.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who has been in Washington since 1978, will retire rather than run for re-election in 2014.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who has been in Washington since 1978, will retire rather than run for re-election in 2014.

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Six-term Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., is retiring rather than battling it out it in another reelection, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

His voting record over the past month would suggest his campaign was firing on all cylinders. Baucus was one of four vulnerable Democrats who voted "no" on a background check proposal last week as parents of Sandy Hook victims looked on. A sign, pundits said, that his election was on the forefront of his mind.

[READ: Newtown Families, Biden Outraged Over Blocked Gun Bill]

Baucus also voted against the Senate's Democratic budget in March. And the senator had hobnobbed with big donors as he made his rounds fundraising for his war chest over the last few months. Since January, he has raised more than $1.5 million bringing his total to $5 million in cash on hand,according to FEC reports.

And most surprisingly, last week the Chairman of the Finance Committee, who was once hailed as the architect of the Affordable Care Act, distanced himself from the legislation when he suggested implementation could would be a "train wreck."

Montana, a conservative-leaning state, with a libertarian tinge, represented a challenge for Baucus. Last year Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won overwhelmingly in the state. However, Montana seems to have an affection for moderate statewide Democrats. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., won an uphill climb in November against former Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., and Gov. Steve Bullock won the gubernatorial race by a small margin.

With Baucus out, all eyes are on former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a moderate Democrat known as much for his aversion to suits and ties (he wore blue jeans most days at Montana's state capital) as his ability to balance the state's budget and promote an independent energy strategy.

A source familiar with Schweitzer's thinking told U.S. News Tuesday he is leaning toward throwing his hat into the ring.

But the Second-Amendment loving Democrat who gave a blow out speech at the 2008 Democratic convention that made him a household name, has been dubious about taking a seat on Capitol Hill in the past.

"I am not goofy enough to be a member of Congress and I am not senile enough to be in the United States Senate, so I am going to be running to be the best friend of my wife," Schweitzer told U.S. News at an election night party in Washington last November.