Senator Max Baucus Announces Retirement

Montana Sen. Max Baucus announced Tuesday that he would retire at the end of his current term rather than seeking a seventh term in the 2014 elections. With Montana trending strongly toward Republicans — Mitt Romney carried the state by nearly a 14-point margin last fall — the 71-year-old Democrat would have faced a tough race had Baucus chosen to run again. As an Obamacare co-sponsor, Baucus would have been hit hard by Republicans for his involvement in the drafting and passage of the President’s health-care measure that is deeply unpopular in Montana. Baucus himself last week called Obamacare a “train wreck.”

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus has helmed the Senate’s tax-writing efforts for nearly 12 years. He occasionally ruffled Democratic feathers by reaching across the aisle, such as when he worked with Republicans to pen the Bush tax cuts.

“Serving the people of Montana has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life,” Baucus said Tuesday. “Over the past 35 years, I have been lucky to go from working for just under 800,000 of the world’s best bosses to more than a million — and I am grateful to each and every one of them for the opportunity they have given me.”

All signs point to former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer as the likely Democratic candidate to seek Baucus’s seat — but he certainly won’t be a shoo-in. And Democrats will face other challenges in 2014, defending Senate seats won in their high-tide year of 2008. Five other incumbent Democrat senators —  Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Carl Levin of Michigan and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey — have all announced plans to retire rather than seek re-election, which gives the GOP a better shot at winning “open” seats. Overall, Democrats must defend 21 of the 35 Senate seats at stake in 2014.

National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Executive Director Rob Collins said of Baucus’s retirement: ”The 2014 electoral map is in free-fall for Democrats, who were already facing a daunting challenge.”

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