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Should Hillary be Worried About Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer?

The popular former red state governor could make the race interesting.

by
Rick Moran

Bio

October 19, 2013 - 11:32 am

It almost seems comical. A a pro-gun, pro-coal former Democratic governor of a small red state with zero national name recognition who used a branding iron to veto bills from the Republican legislature challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination?

On the surface, the idea that Brian Schweitzer would have a ghost of a chance against the former Senator from New York and Secretary of State seems delusional. Indeed, Schweitzer himself said last year that he expected Clinton to breeze to the nomination and beat any Republican in the general election.

Has the political landscape changed that much in a year? Schweitzer himself hit upon Clinton’s major weakness in an interview with RCP”:

“There’s a whole lot of America that looks at each other and says, ‘Well, there’s 340 million people living in America. Isn’t there somebody other than a Bush or a Clinton who can be president in these modern times? Isn’t there hope for somebody who’s running a business or who has served overseas or comes from a different occupation to become president? Are we now in the era of royalty again?’ So I think there’s some level of frustration about that.”

Schweitzer is articulating the exhaustion felt by many voters with the hyper-partisan, dysfunctional politics of Washington. And since there’s every indication it is only going to get worse over the next three years of the Obama administration, why not a smiling, likable populist from the romantic west whose unquestioned popularity in Montana that crosses party lines could translate into victory in the 2016 general election?

Shortly after leaving office, Schweitzer executed a hostile takeover of Stillwater Mining — the largest publicly traded mining company in Montana. He also owns several ranches across the state.

His latest comments about potentially running against Clinton are in stark contrast to an appraisal he made to the Associated Press a year ago. At that time, Schweitzer said, “If Hillary runs, she walks away with the nomination and then beats whichever Republican.”

But as he has settled into his private sector role, Schweitzer’s views on whether anyone can beat the former senator and secretary of state appear to have changed significantly.

After being term-limited last year, he was heavily recruited by national Democrats to run for his state’s open Senate seat in 2014 but announced in July that he would not do so.

His heavy use of the veto pen — or veto branding iron, in his case — and reputation as a competent fiscal steward earned him consistently high approval ratings in Republican-leaning Montana.

Schweitzer’s tough-talking leadership style, anti-Washington ethos, and proven ability to win in a state that has not been friendly to his own party in presidential elections might draw Democratic comparisons to New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, another 2016 presidential aspirant.

But the pro-gun, pro-coal policies that worked for Schweitzer so well in Montana would be a far tougher sell in a Democratic primary.

Another of Schweitzer’s most immediate challenges in mounting a serious campaign would be to build his name recognition against the universally known and already nearly anointed Clinton.

But in the interview with RCP, Schweitzer suggested that his down-home persona and knack for generating free media coverage might keep him in the hunt, particularly in Iowa — a state that has not been friendly territory for Clinton in the past.

“Who would’ve thunk Obama would come out of this thing when you had, my God, Dodd, Biden, Billy Richardson, Hillary Clinton,” Schweitzer said of the 2008 Democratic nominating contest. “So the nice thing about the people of Iowa is they ain’t going to let the rest of America make up their minds for them.”

Some of Schweitzer’s views are out of the mainstream of the Democratic party. He signed an innovative pro-gun bill that exempted Montana-made firearms from federal regulation. He also vigorously pushed development of Montana’s huge coal reserves.

But on the flip side, he also promoted renewable energy for the state, vastly increasing power generation from wind and solar sources. And his administration was cited for innovative educational reforms, including a universal kindergarten program.

In short, Schweitzer could be considered a mainstream Democrat. Unfortunately, that’s not the profile of the average Democratic primary voter, who tend to be much more liberal. Still, Schweitzer has a populist streak that might appeal to some of those liberals looking for a credible alternative to Hillary Clinton.

At the moment, the liberal darling Elizabeth Warren is being encouraged to look into making a run. And Maryland’s very liberal Governor Martin O’Malley has let it be known he is seriously contemplating entering the race as well. Warren is a long shot to make a go of it and O’Malley doesn’t excite too many people on the left. Might this mean that there is room for someone of Schweitzer’s unique personae and abilities to challenge the front runner?

Hillary’s run for the nomination is looking less and less like a coronation after all.

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.

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Top Rated Comments   
"In short, Schweitzer could be considered a mainstream Democrat. Unfortunately, that’s not the profile of the average Democratic primary voter, who tend to be much more liberal."

I'd argue that "much more liberal" *is* their mainstream. The Democratic Party has left a lot of Democrats-by-habit behind.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (11)
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MT Home and I must live in different states...not quite fair of me, but I do have another view of the situation.
Jon Tester, Max Baucus and Brian Schweitzer are all flaming liberals. Schweitzer has revealed a little less of it. Contrary to my fellow Montanan, I was not impressed by Schweitzer's honesty, which I could not perceive, nor his common sense, which I think was right next to his honesty. It's true that he didn't govern as I think he hoped to do, but he had Republican majorities in the legislature most of the time, and he didn't play all that well with the Dems when they had the majority.
It's likely that Schweitzer would be less harmful to the country than Clinton would be, but that's how I'd put it. He might be easier to defeat in some ways. I personally think he's got a better shot at the nomination than Clinton or Biden will have because I think CLinton and Biden are too obviously too long in the tooth.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unless the Democrats eliminate all their caucuses candidates like Schweitzer don't have a chance. Hillary held her own and better in primary states but Obama flooded the caucuses with far left thugs.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lose some weight, the chin, and replace the bolo with a regular necktie.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ditto to McGehee in California.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Odds are I'll have no one to vote for in 2016's Georgia Republican primary, for the third presidential campaign in a row. If Schweitzer runs and is still in by then...
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
"In short, Schweitzer could be considered a mainstream Democrat. Unfortunately, that’s not the profile of the average Democratic primary voter, who tend to be much more liberal."

I'd argue that "much more liberal" *is* their mainstream. The Democratic Party has left a lot of Democrats-by-habit behind.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
You forget Biden. You do not really believe that egoist will not run, do you? I think a bunch of people will run, as they are not just gonna line up behind the sitting VP, as is what normally transpires.

Is Clinton a shoo-in? Is she "inevitable" like Romney? Heck, she is not even likable, and her record as SecState is a disaster. Could someone else come from behind to beat her, like Obama did? Entirely possible.

Furthermore, by 2015, OCare will be an unmitigated disaster. If the Repub is smart it will be all OCare, all the time.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
She was inevitable in 2007, until a first-term junior Senator from Illinois entered the race. Schweitzer could make mincemeat out of her.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
She was inevitable only because the media said so, for a while.

But she's not well liked in her own party. Her baggage is legendary. If she insists on running her own campaign like last time, she'll implode, like last time.

She hasn't got Clue One about running a campaign. Actually, she hasn't got Clue One about being a politician. She's entitled to it, and she just expects everyone else to agree. Then she's surprised when they don't.

Hillary is the perfect example of modern feminism. Completely unqualified, even to bake cookies, she got where she is solely on the coattails of her husband. Bill is the campaigner extraordinaire, the consummate politician. If she lets him run it, and does what she's told, and ONLY what she's told, she'll win.

But I don't think she can do that. Her ego won't allow it.

She's really not that smart.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
>>>Isn’t there somebody other than a Bush or a Clinton who can be president in these modern times? Isn’t there hope for somebody who’s running a business or who has served overseas or comes from a different occupation to become president? Are we now in the era of royalty again?’<<<

1) Not according to the two mainstream parties. It is the two families, or their surrogates, or nothing. However, in one party, the levers of power are not the traditional ones.

2) No.

3) Yes, with the traditional dynastic means of transition of power.

4) Bonus question: What would happen if Schweitzer ran and actually had some traction? If he was lucky, some of his NSA file would be revealed after suitable embellishment. If he was not; do they have a Fort Marcy Park in Montana?

Neither major party gives an obese rodent's *gluts* about anyone who runs a real business, works a real job, or has served in the military.

And actually, I rather do not believe that Hillary will be the Democrat nominee at all.

Subotai Bahadur
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unless you live in MT., WY., or N.D. which are the ONLY 3 States running in the Black don't sell Brian short. Although a Democrat here in Montana (which is a Rep. State) he is admired & highly respected due to his honesty, use of one of the most important things called "Common Sense" & he always worked FOR the people not what would benefit the Politicians.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
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