HELENA - Five-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Baucus walked away with an easy victory Tuesday night, dominating the vote over his challenger, Republican Bob Kelleher.
The Associated Press called the race shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m.
As of press time, Baucus held a lopsided 3-to-1 lead with 54 percent of 863 precincts reporting. Baucus had 179,521 votes, or 74 percent, of the vote to Kelleher's 62,805 votes, or 26 percent.
Baucus said from a Billings victory party Tuesday night that he didn't expect to win by such large margins and was "humbled" by the outcome.
"Tonight is to savor it and appreciate it," Baucus said. "Tomorrow, we've got to sit down. We've got work to do."
Baucus said his sixth, six-year term held "huge opportunities, huge challenges" given the nation's current economic state.
"We've got to fix this health care system," he said. Baucus also ticked off other things he'd like to address, including developing clean coal technologies to wean the nation off foreign energy and addressing a backlog of highway and bridge infrastructure needs.
Baucus also said he looked forward to working with newly elected President Barack Obama to realize Obama's dream for America.
Kelleher could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Baucus' win comes as no surprise to many, although the race may go down as one of Montana's most unusual.
His challenger, Kelleher, an 85-year-old Butte lawyer, has run for office 16 times, losing all but twice since 1964.
Kelleher most often ran as a Democrat, although he dabbled with the Green Party. His primary election victory stunned many when he walked away with the Republican nomination in a field of five other, mostly unknown, candidates.
The Montana Republican Party disavowed him and Baucus mostly ignored him.
Kelleher pushed a platform of turning the United States into a parliament and nationalizing major industries. Baucus, running on his five-term record, spoke about getting out of the war in Iraq and fixing problems with the nation's health care system.
A Helena native, Baucus, 66, is one of the longest-serving senators in the U.S. Senate, having been first elected in 1978. He is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, one of the most influential Senate panels.
Throughout his long political career, Baucus has often crossed party lines to work with Republicans.