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FILE - In this Oct. 31, 2012 photo Gov. Brian Schweitzer speaks to a Helena, Mont., rally. A politically active nonprofit group shared former Gov. Schweitzer’s campaign address and was tied to two of his former appointees, even as the governor was bashing other such nonprofits as “dark money” groups hiding from disclosure laws. (AP Photo/Matt Gouras, file)
Former Governor Brian Schweitzer (D. MT) threw in his two cents about the Montana U.S. Senate race:

Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) told National Journal in a story published Tuesday that Bohlinger would win the Democratic nomination over Lt. Gov. John Walsh if the primary were held today. Bohlinger served as lieutenant governor under Schweitzer from 2005 until 2013.

"Don't listen to the bulls--- you hear in Washington, D.C.," Schweitzer said. "If the [primary] election were held today, John Bohlinger would win 2-to-1 over John Walsh. He's not going to raise the money Walsh is because D.C. has selected Walsh as their candidate. ... But the election isn't right now, it's next year, and the Democratic Senate machine in Washington, D.C. has their sights set on John Walsh, so he'll have a lot more money than John Bohlinger."

But Schweitzer also made it clear that he's not picking sides, telling National Journal that he'll "probably be a large donor to both of them." - TPM, 11/13/13

But some operatives think that Schweitzer is hurting Democrats chances of holding Senator Max Baucus' (D. MT) seat

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06:  Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer speaks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Schweitzer, who turned down the chance to run for the open seat, spoke with his former lieutenant before Bohlinger’s announcement last week. But Montana Democratic sources said he declined pleas from state party leaders to dissuade Bohlinger from running, with Lt. Gov. John Walsh already in the race.

In a phone interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday, Schweitzer said only that he had “conversations” with Bohlinger about “the good, the bad and the ugly” about the Senate and Washington, D.C. He thinks both Democrats would make “very good senators” and could defeat likely GOP nominee Rep. Steve Daines, but deciding the nominee is up to Montana voters.

In his trademark brashness, Schweitzer also claimed some credit for the fight.

“In fact, I guess I’m responsible since I plucked both of them from obscurity,” Schweitzer said. “To ask me to pick favorites is like asking a father to pick his favorite son.”

Sen. Jon Tester and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, have endorsed Walsh as their candidate for the seat of retiring Sen. Max Baucus. Meanwhile, Tester and Baucus are headlining a fundraiser for Walsh on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Bohlinger’s decision to run isn’t particularly concerning for party leaders, sources said, but the preference is always to avoid a primary fight that could distract from the general election. The DSCC does not have to contend with the party divisions that have made navigating the primary process far more complicated for Republicans. - Roll Call, 11/13/13

Bohlinger has been out campaigning as the anti-establishment candidate:

Former Montana Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger just jumped in the Montana Senate race last week – but he says national Democrats are already trying to push him out.

Foremost among them, according to the Democratic candidate? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“[Reid] said, you know, ‘John, you know, you’re a nice guy, but we’ve chosen Walsh. We’d like you to drop out. We don’t want to have a primary,’” Bohlinger said, according to local news reports. Bohlinger was referring to current Lt. Gov. John Walsh, the preferred choice of the party to run for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Max Baucus.

“And I said, ‘Senator, we’re going to have a primary in Montana. And it will be the people of Montana that choose the next Democratic senatorial candidate,’” Bohlinger added.

Bohlinger said that, at the end of their 10- or 15-minute conversation, Reid wished him good luck and said to call if he ever needed help. - Politico, 11/12/13

And Bohlinger has been slamming fellow Montana Democrats for quickly getting behind Walsh's candidacy:

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Bohlinger rapped Montana’s two sitting U.S. senators and “D.C. insiders” on Monday for their early support of fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. John Walsh, saying they should let Montana voters do the choosing.

Bohlinger’s criticism stems in part from a fundraiser that U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester – both Montana Democrats – are hosting Wednesday in Washington, D.C., for Walsh.

The invitation to the fundraiser also lists Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., as a “special guest,” and suggests donations of $500 to $5,000.

“(Schumer’s) probably never even been to Montana,” Bohlinger said. “What the hell does he have to say about Montana and its politics?”

“I am really troubled by the involvement of the Washington insiders in a Montana Democratic senatorial primary race,” he added. “They should have no business of trying to influence an outcome of an election here.” - The Missoulan, 11/11/13

It remains to be seen how this primary battle will go but don't expect to see Schweitzer out on the campaign trail for either Walsh or Bohlinger during the primary:

But outsiders still need supporters, and it's unclear which Democrats have stepped forward for Bohlinger (though his campaign is in its early stages). Walsh has put together a team of campaign staffers and supporters that include both sitting Montana senators. It's not clear who Bohlinger has in his corner, partly because he won't say so himself. Asked specifically who is supporting him, Bohlinger replied: "It's the people of Montana."

"I honestly don't know that," said Montana AFL-CIO executive secretary Al Ekblad, a close observer of the coming Senate race, on who might be supporting Bohlinger. "I'm aware of some of the people that he's talked to, but I haven't seen anything that tells me there are heavy hitters lined up to support that race. ... I don't like the word establishment. But a lot of people have made the decision to back John Walsh. I don't know if lots have made the decision to back John Bohlinger."

There is one answer to that question that some deem obvious, but the truth may be more complicated. Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who plucked Bohlinger from the ranks of moderate Republican state senators to be his running mate in 2004, may be Bohlinger's closest ally in state politics after eight years as a team. Bohlinger says that Schweitzer gave his former LG their old 2004 and 2008 campaign donor lists and "pledged me a nice contribution" for his Senate run.

But the ex-governor -- whose shadow has hung over the Senate race since Baucus announced his retirement, and who nearly pulled the trigger on a bid himself before declining this summer -- is adamant that he's staying not picking sides, despite professed admiration for Bohlinger. Walsh was also a member of Schweitzer's government, though not in an elected role: Schweitzer picked Walsh to head the state's National Guard.

"I want to make sure it's known: I think the world of both, I selected them both" for their old jobs, Schweitzer said. "At the end of the day I'll probably be a large donor to both of them," he added.

Walsh supporters privately believe Bohlinger won't be able to put up much of a fight for the Democratic nomination, citing Walsh's early support and likely financial advanatage as well as Bohlinger's past as a Republican legislator. Other observers without a side in the primary think both candidates have potential, though Walsh has a major organizational advantage that could eventually prove decisive. Schweitzer, interestingly, echoed some of Walsh's recent comments when asked about his old running mate -- while stressing repeatedly that he's not taking sides. - National Journal, 11/12/13

I think both Walsh and Bohlinger are both great candidates but they each have their flaws.  For Walsh, this his second major race so I wouldn't expect him to have a smooth campaign.  But he is a military man who fought for his country and he doesn't have a record to run on so he has that going for him.  Bohlinger has the Schweitzer connection and a record to run on.  I like that he has a lot of fight in him and I liked that he called the Tea Party the American Taliban.  But in a state like Montana, I'm a little concerned with how his comments might play out.  I'm leaning more towards Walsh but I'll be interested to see how Bohlinger will run his campaign.  I don't mind him running as the anti-establishment candidate but he just needs to make sure it doesn't come off as whining about not getting Tester and Baucus' support from the beginning.  All we can do is hope it doesn't get so divisive and nasty that it costs us the race.  Stay tuned.

Originally posted to pdc on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 10:00 PM PST.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party and Montana Kossaks.


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