According to Politico, Montana Sen. Jon Tester is near the top of the Republican Party’s hit list for 2012:
The flat-topped junior senator from Montana starts the cycle vying with [Nebraska Sen. Ben] Nelson for the undesirable status of most endangered Senate Democrat. On Saturday, Bozeman businessman Steve Daines is expected to enter the race, touting his success as a local job creator at an international consulting company. The Montana Democratic Party is welcoming Daines to the fray with a Federal Election Commission complaint that accuses him of using “soft money” to air an attack ad aimed at Tester that is masked as issue advocacy.
The big question mark in the race is the state’s at-large Congressman Denny Rehberg, who hasn’t yet indicated his plans. His spokesman would only go as far as to say, “Denny is focused on doing the job the overwhelming majority of Montana voters sent him to Washington to do.”
State GOP Chairman Will Deschamps suggests that if Rehberg wants the nomination, it’ll be his for the taking.
“Last two cycles, Denny has carried Missoula County, which is so blue you can’t even think straight,” said Deschamps.
Neil Livingstone, a frequent national security commentator on Fox News Channel, told POLITICO he’s also eyeing the contest but said that if Rehberg runs, he won’t.
“Denny’s a good friend of mine, and I’ll support him on his decision,” he said.
Rumors of a possible Tester vs. Rehberg matchup began to swirl shortly after Tester introduced his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act in July 2009. Rehberg quickly interjected himself into Tester’s signature piece of legislation in December when he launched a “Wilderness Listening Tour.”
Rehberg has also vocally slammed Tester’s role in the Port of Whitetail debacle, accusing Tester of “shooting from the hip” by supporting the $8.5 million dollar renovation at little-used remote border crossing.
Rehberg remains tight-lipped about his plans for 2012, but many political insiders expect he will eventually run.
When asked last week by Tribune Washington, D.C. reporter Ledyard King if he was thinking of taking on Tester, Rehberg had this to say:
“Do you really expect me to answer that? C’mon. For God’s sake, this is two days after the election. I am so excited about getting back and serving in the majority. That’s what I’m focused on … I just have no idea (about a run for Senate). I haven’t even gotten my yard signs down yet.”
Montana Republican Party sources tell me that if Rehberg does jump into the race, Daines would happily step aside from the Senate race and pursue Rehberg’s House seat.
Rehberg would undoubtedly be the prohibitive favorite in a GOP primary.
Man, we’ve hardly sailed past the 2010 election and already the 2012 waters are getting choppy!