Montana Primary: What to Watch

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), center, answers reporters' questions after the weekly House Republican caucus meeting with (L-R) Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) at the U.S. Capitol on March 5, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), center, answers reporters’ questions after the weekly House Republican caucus meeting with (L-R) Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) at the U.S. Capitol on March 5, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Today’s primary in Montana probably will set up a long-anticipated and consequential November Senate matchup between Democratic incumbent John Walsh and Republican Rep. Steve Daines.

Walsh is expected to clear his first political hurdle in a primary against former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and rancher Dirk S. Adams. So is Daines, who faces two lesser-known Republicans in his primary.

Walsh, a former lieutenant governor, was appointed to the Senate in February, after Democrat Max Baucus resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China. Walsh began seeking the Senate seat last fall, after Baucus said earlier in 2013 that he wouldn’t run for re-election.

Walsh has sought to carve out a centrist profile as an incumbent, pushing President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline by May 31. In libertarian-leaning Montana, Walsh has said that the Obama administration’s proposals to limit the National Security Agency’s data-collection powers don’t do enough to protect civil liberties.

Daines and Republicans want to avoid a rerun of the 2012 Senate race, in which Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg lost to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester by four percentage points even as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was carrying the state by about 14 points. Republicans are hoping the Montana seat is among the six they need to flip from Democratic to Republican control to capture a majority in the Senate, where Democrats control 55 of the 100 seats.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has aired a television ad promoting Daines, who was elected to Montana’s at-large seat in 2012. Daines “supports the protection and creation of new energy jobs here in Montana,” according to the Chamber’s spot.

Five Republicans and two Democrats are seeking to succeed Daines in the House. Click here for a list of candidates.

Montana’s election returns will be posted after polling stations close at 10 p.m. Eastern time, or 8 p.m. local time in Montana, which is in the mountain time zone.

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