Max Baucus (D-Montana)
On Friday, Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh (right) was appointed to finish the term of Baucus, who is vacating his seat early to serve as U.S. ambassador to China. Democrat Walsh, a member of Montana National Guard before taking office, is a political newcomer who faces long odds in a state that voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by more than 14 percentage points.
Republican Congressman Steve Daines, who won a statewide race for the House by 10 points in 2012, is considered the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. Daines led Walsh by 17 points in a poll late last year, but Walsh will have spent nine months in the Senate by election day, which should boost his name recognition and provide helpful incumbency status. Also, given otherwise red Montana’s tradition of sending Democrats to the upper chamber, the race could be closer than one might first expect.