WASHINGTON (AP) — With control of the Senate at stake in next year’s elections, President Barack Obama’s decision to name retiring Democratic Sen. Max Baucus as ambassador to China sets off a chain reaction that could give the White House and Democrats an edge in preventing Republicans from gaining a Senate majority.
The beneficiaries could be Montana’s Lt. Gov. John Walsh, a Democrat seeking Baucus’ seat, and, thanks to the dominoes of Senate seniority, Sen. Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana, who is facing a difficult re-election.
The advantages would be on the margins, potentially giving the two Democrats a slight boost. But in a series of close elections with Republicans needing to gain a net of six seats to recapture control of the Senate, any lift for Democrats could help them retain control and protect Obama’s agenda.
Though the White House has yet to announce the nomination, several Democratic officials confirmed it and White House spokesman Jay Carney noted Baucus “has been directly engaged for more than two decades in work to deepen the relationship between the United States and China.”
It’s not the first time an ambassadorship to China would have protected Obama’s political flanks. He nominated Jon Huntsman in 2009, essentially sidelining a potential Republican presidential adversary in the 2012 election.