On Friday, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R, MT-02) made official what has long been expected by filing for the U.S. Senate race in Montana.
Separately, in a surprise announcement, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Ben Cardin, who is retiring.
Neither has an easy path, although the obstacles facing each are somewhat different.
Rosendale was Montana's at-large representative in his first term. The state gained a U.S. House seat in 2020 Census apportionment and he successfully ran for reelection in the new District 2 in 2022. It is the more safely Republican of the two seats.
This is his second try for the Senate. As the party's nominee in 2018, he lost to incumbent Democrat Jon Tester by about 3.5%. Tester will be seeking his fourth term later this year.
Republicans will be aggressive in trying to flip this seat as part of their effort to regain the majority. Most analysts rate the race as a toss-up.
Rosendale is a hardline conservative who is not the choice of party establishment. Earlier this week, Punchbowl reported that Speaker Mike Johnson was was planning to endorse his colleague; he quickly walked that back after considerable blowback.
Montana's other Senator, Republican Steve Daines heads the Committee charged with getting more Republicans elected to the Senate. He released a statement that said "It’s unfortunate that rather than building seniority for our great state in the House, Matt is choosing to abandon his seat and create a divisive primary. Tim Sheehy has my full support because he is the best candidate to take on Jon Tester. Whichever party wins the Montana Senate seat will control the United States Senate in 2024, and Republicans cannot risk nominating a candidate who gave Jon Tester the biggest victory of his career."
A popular two-term Republican governor in a deep-blue state, Larry Hogan left office after the 2022 election. He was unable to run for a third term due to term limits.
He entered the Senate race just hours before Friday's deadline.
Hogan immediately becomes the frontrunner for the Republican nomination and nudges the seat back on to the competitive map. The Cook Political Report updated its rating from Safe to Likely Democratic after Hogan's announcement.
That said, this is a very blue state. As Inside Election's Jacob Rubashkin noted, "Maryland was the fourth-most Democratic state in 2020 at 65-32 Biden. It's like the Democratic equivalent of Idaho (63R-33D) or Oklahoma (65-32)." The state last elected a Republican to the Senate in 1980.