Montana Dems Have Time To Find A New Candidate, But It Won’t Be Schweitzer

Insiders say Montana’s most popular politician won’t replace scandal-plagued Senator John Walsh on the ballot.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Montana Democrats shouldn’t expect Brian Schweitzer to save them from the plagiarism scandal swirling around incumbent John Walsh, but they do have a little time to find a new candidate if they want to replace him.

Under state law, Walsh has until August 11, 85 days before the election, to withdraw from the race and allow the Montana Democratic Party to select a replacement. However, a source close to the former Montana governor told The Daily Beast that “there is no chance” that Schweitzer would replace Walsh on the ballot in November.

Walsh, who was already trailing in the polls, received what one Montana political insider called “the final nail in his coffin” when the New York Times revealed Wednesday that he had plagiarized his final paper for his master’s degree at the Army War College.

Despite Schweitzer’s propensity for gaffes and controversial comments, the former two-term governor remains the most popular politician in the Republican leaning state. But Schweitzer is also perhaps the least popular politician within the Montana Democratic Party and is widely disliked among party insiders.

The result is that even if Walsh is replaced on the ballot, it won’t be with Schweitzer. The problem is the former governor is likely the only candidate who would have a chance against Republican nominee Steve Daines.

Schweitzer had been aggressively urged to run for the Senate seat, which had been held by Baucus since 1978. He seemed ready to throw his hat in the ring until, at the last minute, he decided not to run.

Democrats eventually settled on Walsh, the state’s newly elected Lieutenant Governor and the former Adjutant General of the Montana National Guard as their preferred candidate. After Baucus resigned to become Ambassador to China earlier this year, Walsh was appointed to succeed him. Now it seems Democrats, facing the possibility losing a Senate seat last held by the GOP in the Taft Administration, might be stuck with him.