Does a Montana Governor Stand Between Hillary and the White House?

Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer may very well be a candidate for President in 2016. His first step will be winning the Democratic nomination.

Does he have chance?

With name identification below ten percent outside of Montana he will have to considerably raise his profile on the national level. The fact that he provides such a stark contrast to Senator Hillary Clinton and her campaign is likely to raise his profile soon after he enters the race.

Also, what part of the Democratic primary constituency does he appeal to? The natural answer is the anti-Hillary faction. This consists of those with Clinton-Fatigue, populists, some white men (a fading block of the Democratic Party), and some labor unions.

The Democratic primary voters he will repel may be a larger issue. Environmentalists will oppose his strong support for the use of fracking to produce natural gas and oil, as well as, his general support for increased domestic energy production. Gun safety advocates will dislike his embrace of firearms. Strong supporters of gay rights will likely dislike his claims to “gaydar” and projection of who is gay or simply effeminate. In short, most liberals, the lion’s share of the Democratic primary voters, will hate him.

However, with his embrace of single payer healthcare, he is to the left of Senator Clinton on what otherwise might be a signature issue for her. This will appeal to more populist leaning elements of the party who tend to be from more rural areas and supportive of labor issues.

Jerry Brown tried to build this collation in 1992, embracing labor unions and scorning the free-trade, pro-NAFTA sophisticates of the Bill Clinton team. However, as the former Governor of California (and a political scion) with an Ivy League pedigree, it was tough for him to out blue-collar the former Governor of Arkansas, raised by a single mother.

Schweitzer, a true son of the West, will have no similar encumbrances.

But, how big is this possible coalition, and how likely are unions to embrace a national newcomer? As Brown demonstrated in 1992, unions will back challengers with long odds if there is clear support for their core issues: jobs, protectionist trade policies, favorable organizing rules, and fiscal policy geared towards the middle/working class.

Assuming the race can be portrayed as a one on one race against Senator Hillary Clinton, the atmospheric differences will be dramatic. The bolo-tie wearing gregarious Governor Schweitzer will be swinging for the fences and playing to win with a long-shot’s lack of caution. This will look quite different from the tightly scripted, regimentally disciplined, yet multi-headed Clinton campaign, playing not to lose.

As the U.S. soccer team recently learned, sometimes playing not to lose can itself be a losing strategy.


  1. Here we go with “Name recognition” again. I have heard of him. 2016 is a way off in the future, yet. I suppose we can all try to “predict” the future. Elizabeth Warren (D), Bernie Saunders (I)? A few very good possible candidates & some very Bad ones out there, like former (bad) Fl Gov J Bush (R). Have to see what’s up after the 2014 elections for me to truly get behind a candidate for president. Have a Florida Governors race & many other political offices up for grabs right now in FL & across the country. New FL Governor & a new Congress both willing & able to do their jobs is my goal when casting my vote..


  2. Torrey Craig · ·

    Look back eight or so years. Wasn’t Hilary in the same position she finds herself in now? The inside track was open for her to run the table, until a brash junior senator from Illinois happened on to the stage. As old saying goes the rest is history. Could Governor Schweitzer run the table? It has happened before. There is a certain ABC (Anybody But Clinton) element that can not be dismissed or discounted. There are others in the wings that can come on stage if … IF they see a real opportunity. I think that Governor Schweitzer is but one person who could reach for the brass ring.


  3. The more you learn about Schweitzer, the less you will like him.

    He is such a loose cannon that he makes Howard Dean look like a shrinking violet:


  4. 86GOPGator · ·

    Excellent article and a wise observation on behalf of the author. As many of my liberal friends will attest. I have been saying this for last two or more years?

    It is my strong belief that the GOP ( my party) would have a much more difficult time beating former Governor Schweitzer of Montana than either Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren, the current Senator from Massachusetts!

    My liberal friends will also attest that I believe Hillary WILL NOT run in 2016. Why? She knows she is damaged goods. Her book signings and speaking engagements have not gained the political traction her operatives had hoped. Second, there is no way the Obama wing of the Democratic Party will give up control of the party back to the Clintons. Third, there is also that nagging question about Hillary’s health and Fourth, who knows what will evolve from Congressman Trey Gowdy’s select committee on Benghazi. So lets drop the talk of a serious Clinton candidacy in 2016.

    In my opinion, there are two serious candidates who will end up competing for the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2016. They are former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts.

    Republicans are hoping the Democrats nominate Warren as she would all but guarantee a GOP victory in 2016. She has served in the Obama administration and as a Senator, has voted for the very same policies that Americans are rebelling against.

    Governor Schweitzer, on the other hand, brings a clean slate – meaning he has no “political ties” to the Obama Administration, plus he is pro 2nd Amendment, pro- fossil energy, pro- union and he is from the West. And we all know that there is no such thing as a liberal from Montana.

    Personally, I’ve known Governor Schweitzer since he became governor in 2002 when I was working at the U S Department of Energy. He is intelligent, very likable, has great people’s skills, knows how to “work a room” and knows his audience. If a conservative Republican like me, likes Schweitzer then you know a lot of independents and conservative Democrats will like ( be fooled) and vote for him. In reality, Brian Schweitzer, though very likable, is a strong liberal who is supporter of a national single payer health care system. In short, he will be very difficult for the Republicans to beat. His populist image and persona will appeal to many independents and conservative Democrats.

    Remember, in the end, politics is about perception. Reagan’s “New Beginning” Obama’s “Hope and Change” the goal of any presidential campaign is to win a majority of the Electoral College and not who is the most ideological pure. When you don’t win elections, you can’t set the agenda or “change” America.

    Political activists of both parties need to be focused on the general election and not their respective primary elections. Both political parties need to appeal to their voting base and not to their respective financial supporters. Make no mistake, my party will have its own fight as well and we have to remember what the ultimate objective is and that is to win the White House!

    So Democratic activist have a choice to make: will they choose Schweitzer or Warren? As a conservative Republican, it is my strong hope the Democrats are foolish enough to nominate Senator Warren of Massachusetts who is a über-duber left wing Obama – loving liberal. As I said earlier, her nomination all but guarantees a Republican Party victory in 2016!


  5. Thanks for reading and the comments. I tried to address some of the comments in my second article on Schweitzer. I couldn’t disagree with GOP Gator more. There is not question in my mind that Hillary will run. Also, I don’t think Warren stands a chance; she’s a professor/legislator, not an executive. As I address in the second article I think most of the other mentioned candidates are Hillary clones (Klobuchar, Gillibrand, O’Malley, and Warren to an extent) or idealists who will drop out after New Hampshire (Sanders and Warren). I think there is more Biden-fatigue than Hillary-fatigue and believe the baggage of Cuomo and Dean may keep them out. Regardless, they are all Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic liberals, with the exception of Klobuchar. O’Malley, Cuomo, Deval Patrick and Corey Booker will play up there managerial strengths if the later three run. But, I expect the press will flock to Schweitzer if he enters and avoids saying more stupid things. And, yes, I believe even at this stage name ID matters. It is an issue that all of the candidates lose to the choice of “undecided” in current polling of Democrats, other than Clinton and Biden; obviously a factor of name ID. I don’t discount the possibility that Schweitzer, or another dark horse, could eventually beat Clinton, like 2008. But, Hillary is the logical base scenario.


  6. Schweitzer’s greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. His shoot from the hip, just folks, lack of scripting and discipline is what makes him so different from Clinton. Yet, this lack of caution or planning has led him to say stupid things he later regrets and for which he has to apologize. Schweitzer could play well in the same Southern states that Gore won in 1988 and Hillary won in 2008. But if he keeps saying things like, “men in the South, they are a little effeminate,” he’s sunk. This, apparently, is a point of pride and differentiation in the West. And, while there may be more office work in the South and more farming/mining in the West, it’s not something anyone in the South wants to hear.


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