Montana Sen. Steve Daines is aiming to lead the GOP’s campaign arm for the 2024 campaign, which will put him in the unusual position of trying to topple his own state’s senior senator.
The second-term Daines confirmed in an interview that he’s interested in chairing the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the next election cycle. That assignment would put him in charge of winning Senate races in red-leaning states like Ohio, West Virginia and, yes, Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) may run for re-election. And Daines seems to be locking up his colleagues’ support for the job.
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) mulled pursuing the position but ultimately decided against it, according to a person familiar with his plans. And Senate Republicans said they were unaware of anyone else in the conference being interested in the job, other than Daines.
“I’ve got very strong support in the conference,” Daines said.
Still, 2024 won’t be easy by any stretch. Both Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have proven difficult to defeat in recent elections; should they run again, they won’t be easy to beat two years from now.
And other competitive Senate races are likely in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, where current NRSC Chair Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is up for reelection. Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) term also ends in 2024, and he could face opposition in a primary if he runs for reelection.
But the most intriguing dynamic will be Daines’ backyard in Montana, the site of an ever-increasing rivalry between him and Tester, who chaired the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2016 and is a formidable political force in his own right. Daines campaigned in 2018 with Tester’s opponent, Matt Rosendale, though he shied away from personal attacks on the Democratic incumbent.
After Tester won re-election, he helped recruit former Gov. Steve Bullock (D) to run against Daines. The Republican dispatched Bullock handily in 2020.
Daines, for his part, downplayed any tension with Tester. Asked if it would be awkward to try and beat his senior senator, he replied: “There will be a number of Senate races in 2024. And I’m sure we’ll be working hard.”
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