Daines 'serious' on Montana Senate bid

Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) says he’s getting strong encouragement from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Senate Republicans to run for the upper chamber, and will give the race serious thought during the August recess.

“We’re getting urged to run for that Senate seat. I’ve spoken to Sen. McConnell, and he’d like to see Montana be a Senate seat in his column,” Daines told The Hill during a Thursday interview in his office. “We’ve had a lot of encouragement from the senators to consider the race, and we’re giving it the serious consideration that it deserves and will come to a decision here somewhere down the road.”

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The freshman congressman has received financial support from several senators as well: McConnell and Senate Republican Caucus Chair John Thune (S.D.) have both donated to him through their leadership political action committees (PAC). National Republican Senatorial Committee Vice Chairman Rob Portman (R-Ohio) recently held a fundraiser for Daines, the GOP’s preferred choice to run for retiring Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.) seat.

“We’ve talked a number of times. I’m very high on him,” Portman told The Hill on Thursday. “I just think Steve is a terrific candidate. … He’d be great. He’s got a business background, a trade background, an entrepreneurial innovation background because of his work with that cloud computing company. He’s just a solid guy. I hope he’ll run.”

Daines isn’t rushing to make a decision, though most Republicans in Montana and Washington, D.C., expect he’ll run. Democrats are still searching for a candidate after Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) surprised many with a decision not to run. Democrats’ struggle to find a candidate for the race may have eased the pressure on the congressman to make a quick decision.

Daines was quick to quote recent public polling showing him with big leads over the Democrats who have yet to rule out a run. But he said those results won’t make up his mind.

“The polls look good, double-digit leads, but polls go up, and polls go down. I don’t think you can make a decision for this just based on any one poll. Yeah, there are some polls that look good for us. But no matter which race, a House race, a Senate race, we are running to win,” he said.

“Nobody expected Sen. Baucus to retire. That was a surprise to everybody. Frankly, nobody expected Gov. Schweitzer not to run for that seat. That was a surprise for everybody,” he continued. Daines said he has no timeline for a decision but knows he’ll need to make up his mind sooner rather than later. 

“Coming from business, I’ve always believed, stay focused on the job you’ve been given to do and do the right things, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Daines said his family's feeling about the race will make the biggest difference for him, though he said his kids are “very supportive, excited” about his congressional career. He said his next question is what his constituents think.

“Do they want to see me stay in the House or do they want to see me move to the Senate? That’s the question I’ve got to be asking people back home,” he said. "I’ll be spending the month of August traveling around the state and having a lot of conversations.”