Skip to main content
Inside Politics
CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!
Complete Results | House | Governor | Senate | By Area

Taylor drops out of Montana Senate race

Candidate says he was overcome by 'sea of sleaze'

From John Mercurio
CNN Washington

Story Tools

HELENA, Montana (CNN) -- Trailing Sen. Max Baucus badly in recent polls, Republican Mike Taylor Thursday ended his campaign to unseat the four-term Democrat, claiming he was overcome by a "sea of sleaze," including "the most negative ad running anywhere."

Taylor's decision, also driven by a financial shortfall, comes just 10 days after embattled Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-New Jersey, withdrew from the New Jersey Senate race and, after a brief legal scuffle, was replaced on the November 5 ballot by Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Lautenberg is now running ahead of Republican Doug Forrester in independent polls.

Taylor, a 61-year-old state senator and wealthy businessman, told reporters he decided to "suspend my campaign because my opponent's lies about me are hurting my wife, my family, my friends, my party and most of all Montanans from all walks of life.

"...I cannot let this go on without giving Montanans an option, a reason to hope that there is a candidate out there who -- with their massive outpouring of support -- could overcome this sea of sleaze from my opponent," he said.

Taylor was enraged over what has become known as the "Boogie Nights" TV ad, financed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that featured dated footage of Taylor, dressed flamboyantly, talking about the beauty supplies business he has owned for years.

Ads called 'despicable'

In addition to the ad, which supporters called "despicable," Taylor accused Baucus of spreading "loathsome distortions of the truth" about him and said voters deserve a candidate "of impeccable character and integrity -- someone as yet un-poisoned by my opponent's venom."

What's not clear at this point is how the Republicans might be able to make that happen. One possibility suggested by Taylor was a write-in candidate. But the Democratic moves in New Jersey prompted GOP officials to consider replacing Taylor on the ballot.

Baucus, 60, was first elected to the Senate in 1978 after serving two terms in the House. He won re-election in 1996 by a slim 5 points and his seat was considered vulnerable.

"I want to wish Mike Taylor and his family well," Baucus said in a statement. "There are many important issues facing Montana, and I will continue to work hard to address them in the coming weeks."

A spokesman for Baucus referred all questions about the controversial ad to the Democratic Party, saying: "This is not Senator Baucus' ad."

Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, now chairman of the Republican National Committee, declined earlier White House pleas to run, but party leaders once again approached him about the race Thursday, according to GOP sources.

Other possibilities: freshman Rep. Dennis Rehberg, a former lieutenant governor under Racicot, who lost a 1996 challenge to Baucus by just 5 points, and Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs.

Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said GOP officials would examine all options.

But regarding any new approach to Racicot, he said, "Right now I'm not making any push ... A precedent was set in New Jersey, but I made it clear then I thought it was inappropriate to break the law.

"Because of my profile, I don't want anyone to think I'm out there trying to do the same things Democrats did, so I'm going to let things work their way out."

Republicans said Taylor suspended his campaign, as opposed to formally dropping out, at the request of Frist, who urged him to give GOP officials enough time to determine their options.

Montana represents one of the GOP's biggest recruitment disappointments in the battle to reclaim the Senate majority. President Bush carried the state two years ago by 25 points, but Republicans failed to draw a top-tier candidate into this year's Senate race.

Story Tools

Top Stories
Panel: Spy agencies in dark about threats
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards
© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.