In recent months, Baucus has worked with a new ally, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., who shares his enthusiasm for tax reform. With Camp facing a term limit on his chairmanship next year, aides said both chairmen have a rare sense of freedom in an era when power is concentrated in the offices of Reid and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Inside the Democratic caucus, many junior Democrats have chafed at Baucus' power, pushing the leadership to rein him in, and some have even promoted the prospect of imposing term limits on Senate chairmen. Those proposals have so far been brushed aside by Reid's leadership team.
Baucus' advisers said that he was not afraid of running another tough race. But in one clear signal that he was ready to go, Baucus and his wife, Melodee, have recently begun building what they call their "dream home" outside Bozeman, Mont. Additionally, several of his closest advisers left their senior positions in recent months for private-sector jobs.
Republican strategists began circulating stories about Schweitzer and his work stumping for Obama immediately after The Washington Post broke the news about Baucus' retirement. Democrats rejected the idea that tying Schweitzer — or any Montana Democrat — to Obama would suffice to defeat him, citing the string of Senate victories for Democrats there that included the 2012 victory of Sen. Jon Tester.
Despite Obama's double-digit defeat in Montana, Democrats intend to vigorously defend the seat.
"Democrats have had a great deal of electoral success in Montana over the last decade, and I am confident that will continue," Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement.