Updated 9:58 a.m. ET, 7/15
(CNN) - In a surprising twist for the 2014 midterm elections, former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana will not run for the U.S. Senate as expected, according to a source familiar with his decision.
Schweitzer was widely considered to be the Democratic frontrunner to campaign for the seat and keep it in Democrats' hands after the current holder, Sen. Max Baucus, retires at the end of his sixth term.
After Baucus' retirement announcement in late April, Schweitzer said he was thinking about a Senate bid, a senior Democratic official told CNN at the time.
The folksy former governor, known for his signature bolo tie, had strong approval ratings in office and was elected to his second term in 2008 with 65% of the vote.
Schweitzer told the Associated Press on Saturday that he didn't want to leave Montana for Washington.
He pointed to his new position as board chairman of the Stillwater Mining Company in Montana, saying he has “taken on a new life” at the company. His election to the position in May sparked speculation that it may affect his thoughts on a Senate run.
But a source familiar with his decision not to run said Schweitzer was beginning to recognize what senior Democrats in Washington had feared.
“The research book was getting worse by the minute,” the source said.
Schweitzer’s name has popped up in recent reports this month regarding his ties to a political nonprofit group and questions over its disclosure practices.
Schweitzer was a vocal opponent of a the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for super PACs, which are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money as long as they don't coordinate with campaigns, and lambasted secret money campaigns.
But the former governor denied on Saturday that the recent controversy affected his decision.
"This isn't my first rodeo," Schweitzer told the AP.
The Democrats control the Senate 54-46 (with two independents caucusing with the party), but they need to defend 21 of the 35 seats up for grabs in November 2014.
For their part, Republicans welcomed Schweitzer's announcement. "This news is a pivotal, sea-chage moment in our efforts to earn back the majority in the Senate," said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The NRSC had already launched attacks on Schweitzer in preparation for his bid, considering him a potentially vulnerable Democrat in a state with large swaths of Republican voters. He's also been considered a potential dark horse in the Democratic presidential primary in 2016.
In their effort to retake the majority, Republicans are battling to win back seats held by Democrats in red states like Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, and Arkansas. With Schweitzer off the ticket, that puts Montana more in play for the GOP.
But Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the party is "confident" that Democrats can hold onto the Montana seat and predicted the "overall math still favors Democrats next year."
"Only three Democratic incumbents have lost reelection in the last decade," he said in a statement. "Our incumbents are positioned to win, we've already recruited a strong challenger to Mitch McConnell and Republicans have failed to expand the senate map into blue and purple states."
Potential Democratic names floating around for the Montana seat include EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock, Montana Supreme Court Justice Brian Morris, state Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, Montana public schools Superintendent Denise Juneau and state Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen.
Schweitzer's decision will no doubt leave some disappointed. The liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a grass-roots group that in part cut its teeth on Elizabeth Warren's successful Senate campaign in Massachusetts, had been aggressively pushing a Schweitzer run.
Almost immediately after Baucus announced in April that he would not run for re-election, the group went ahead with its Draft Brian Schweitzer campaign. It has since raised $35,000, with $10,000 raised in the first five hours. (When the group supported Warren, it raised $100,000 before she launched her campaign and $1.1 million overall.)
More than 22,000 people had signed their support to the effort to draft Schweitzer, with many of them pledging to donate or volunteer if he decided to run.
"We are urging him to reconsider," the group's co-founder, Adam Green, told CNN.
– CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.
democrats can kiss this senate seat good bye. schweitzer can see the obamacare disaster handwriting on the wall. add to that the democrat's endless attack on the second amendment rights of law abiding citizens and you have democrats running away from office because they don't want to defend these disasters.
just sayin – Thanks for sharing your delusions with us sane folk. I'm curious though, how do universal background checks, magazine capacity limits, and assault-rifle bans threaten 2nd Amendment rights? It's painfully clear that you and your similarly insanely ignorant right-wing ilk are clueless about the content and meaning of the 2nd Amendment, opting instead to blindly use it as some sort of 19th century battle cry. And since we're on the subject of "rights", how do you right-winger filth reconcile your lust with gun-owner rights, versus your disdain for women's, minorities, and gay rights? And another thing, do you have any idea how infantile your comments look with all the major grammatical errors and lack of punctuation? It really lessens your argument when you write like a 1st grader. Just saying.
Great Governor , he would make a good VP !
Never confuse WMD's in Iraq with affordable health care and student loans .
To just sayin remember the negative u always write the good always weight out the bad just saying.
Have a nice retirement at our expense that goes for everyone we shouldn't have to pay for retirement and health care either.
"He pointed to his new position as board chairman of the Stillwater Mining Company in Montana, saying he has “taken on a new life” at the company."
Basically, he sold out his state for a lobbying position that pays much more and has less responsibility than anything he could get from a Senate run.
You mother can do what she does best,which is stand on street corners..
Too bad for Montanans.
Oh dear. It appears that the Republicans feel they have certain seats locked in and they will rule the Congress after the 2015 election. It would be so nice if Americans voted for the BEST person for the job without having to listen to the haragues. The two people running should control the ads and the costs ascribed to their campaigns. Keep the donations to a resonable amount so that we can feel WE made the decision.
If you don't have anything of substance to say, don't just say it
I hope Guy Cecil is right but I wouldn't bet on it. Midterm elections for 2nd term presidents tend to be disasters for them. The only acception I can think of is 1998. Hopefully Democrats realize that they are potential underdogs next year and take nothing for granted. Whatever losses happen next year will hopefully be kept to a minimum.
@just sayin: When You make assertions without citation, I automatically assume You are wrong.
@just sayin: When You make assertions without citations, I automatically assume You are wrong.
Yup, ditto that......
I understand why he doesnt want run..he did his time and just wants stay home..I dont blame him
@ just sayin
What you describe as disasters is such nonsense and nothing more than endless regurgitating, hollow Fox talking points. The real disaster is the GOP in the House, what a shameless bunch, but the more they obstruct and show how careless they really are, the deeper they are digging their own grave. Vote the GOP out in 2014 and beyond.
Too bad; he would have made an awesome president some day.
This is not news.
Great news we get rid of another incompetent one.
The GOP is offering better? NOT....Call when they ALL quit!
Just sayin has no idea what he is talking about, spouting some Neo-Con drivel and calling this man a coward.
Schweitzer didn't run because he doesn't want to bite off more than he can chew, since he's now on the board of a large mining corporation. He doesn't want to have give up that which he fought hard for, to jump right into another fight for a Senate seat. I'm from Montana, and you'd easily get 70% of the voting block of the state choosing Schweitzer over whatever bumbling fool the Republicans tried to run against him, regardless of whatever "obamacare disaster" and "attacks on the second amendment" this just sayin guy is babbling on about.
Obamacare will provide good insurance for you and will not send the insurance gamesters to the prisons they belong in. The second amendment abusers can kiss their body parts goodbye for all the rest of us care.
Good guy. Not believing that this is the last we'll see of him. Not for one minute. He's too public service oriented.
The R's can forget West Virginia. It may always go for the R's in the presidential elections, but both Senate seats have always gone Democratic. We're a poor state who don't take kindly to the Republican philosophy.