GOP Poll: Schweitzer leads all Republicans for Montana Senate

Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) leads all potential GOP candidates in a hypothetical campaign for the Senate in Montana, according to a new survey from GOP pollster Harper Polling.

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The former governor, who told The Hill last week that he'd consider a bid to replace retiring Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), has a 54 percent approval rating in the state, with 37 percent disapproving, according to the poll.

Schweitzer leads former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot (R) by 47 to 43 percent, and has a 50 to 40 percent advantage over Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). Daines has said he's considering a run, while Racicot has remained silent on the race.

If Schweitzer decides against a bid, however, it becomes much more difficult for Democrats to hold the seat. 

President Obama's approval rating in the state is just 36 percent, with 54 percent disapproving. By an 8-point margin, voters prefer a generic Republican to a generic Democrat for the seat.

The two Republicans already in the race, former state Sen. Corey Stapleton (R) and state Rep. Champ Edmunds (R), barely register in the polls when tested against Daines and Racicot, and are blown out by Schweitzer. 

Other Democrats who might run are also not well-known: Stephanie Schriock, the head of the pro-abortion-rights group EMILY's List, is known by only 14 percent of voters, while Montana state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau has a 38 to 22 percent approval rating.

The poll reinforces the importance of Schweitzer's decision on whether Democrats can hold the seat — and how much of an impact it will have on GOP chances of winning Senate control.

The automated poll of 771 registered voters was conducted from April 27-28 and has a margin of error of 3.53 percentage points.