There are many wide-open spaces but few competitive races in the Rocky Mountain West. Even though the important contests are few, they could be good indicators of which party has the upper hand next fall.
Here are the top five races to watch in the Mountain region:
Montana Senate. Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer accounted for his party's A, B, and C plans for recruitment in this state, so Democratic strategists were willing to wait for his decision. So his Saturday announcement that he would not run for the seat leaves his party without a candidate and makes this a top pick-up opportunity for Republicans. GOP Rep. Steve Daines seems like a likely candidate, especially with Schweitzer out. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Pending.
Utah’s 4th District. Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson narrowly survived a strong challenge from Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love. Democrats can’t fathom how Matheson could lose after winning with Mitt Romney at the top of the ballot. But the race was razor close, and Love will run a better campaign this cycle. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Pure Tossup. Get the full Rothenberg Political Report analysis here ($).
Colorado’s 6th District. Republican Rep. Mike Coffman narrowly survived re-election in this Aurora-based district, and Democrats are coming back next cycle with what they believe will be a stronger candidate. Former state Speaker Andrew Romanoff isn’t from the district, but Democrats believe he can leverage his broader network for support. This is a top-five race anywhere in the country. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Pure Tossup.
Montana's At-Large District. If Daines runs for the Senate seat, his open House district will attract a crowd of Republicans. The GOP primary would be the place to watch for the next member of Congress no matter what Democrats say. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Currently Safe Republican.
Idaho’s 2nd District. Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith is challenging Rep. Mike Simpson in the GOP primary. Smith is making his first run for office, but it’s worth watching to see if there is room to Simpson’s right with an outsider candidate. What's more, as of last week, Smith has backing from the deep-pocketed Club for Growth to help his campaign. Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Currently Safe Republican.
Which races would you add to or subtract from the list?
Note: The Mountain region includes Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.