Ex-Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer will consider campaign to replace Baucus

Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) told The Hill on Tuesday he will consider a run for retiring Sen. Max Baucus' (D-Mont.) seat but won't decide until after May 2.

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"I'm the kind of guy that, when I see a broke-down pickup, I'll get out with my tools and try to fix it, and I can tell you looking at Washington, D.C., from Montana, there is no bigger broke-down pickup than the Senate in Washington, D.C.," Schweitzer said in an interview, when asked if he was looking at a run to replace Baucus, who announced his retirement Tuesday morning.

The former governor said he was "focused like a laser" for the next 10 days on helping the Stillwater Mine, a major Montana project he's working to help turn around, and would turn his focus toward a possible Senate bid afterwards.

"I'm not ruling anything out, or anything in, but I can tell you right now I'm focused like a laser … I'm focused on the mine, on climbing that mountain," Schweitzer said. 

"Then I'll take a deep breath; I'll take a look around [at the Senate race]. And when you're standing on a mountain in Montana, you can see a long ways."

Schweitzer, who left office earlier this year, remains popular in the state. His approval rating was 56 percent in a February survey from Public Policy Polling, with 37 percent disapproving. 

He'd likely be Democrats' best chance at holding the seat in the Republican-leaning state.

When told he sounded like he was leaning towards a Senate run, the former governor laughed.

"You can't see where I'm leaning. I'm leaning looking out the window here in the mountains," he said.

A source familiar with Schweitzer's thinking told The Hill earlier on Tuesday that he was leaning towards running for the seat.

Schweitzer offered kind words for Baucus. Schweitzer and Baucus have, at times, had a tense relationship, according to a number of Montana Democrats.

"Max has served in the U.S. Senate longer than any other Montanan in history. Every Montanan would like nothing more than to spend another day in Montana and the sacrifice he's made with all that time in Washington ...  If someone said, 'Well, I want to spend more time in Alabama; I want to spend more time in the Bayou.' What are you crazy?' But if they say to you, 'I just want to spend more time in Montana,' they mean it. It's real," Schweitzer said. 

"God bless him for all his years of service."