The Democratic Party's Secret Weapon

Cross-Posted at the Swing State Project and Senate Guru-- iaryId=89

All of us here are optimistic about our prospects in a Democratic year, yet we have repeatedly voiced concern about the precarious nature of some of this year's down-ballot races.  In a Democratic year, why are Oregon and Maine such long-shots?  Why is the picture so unclear in Colorado?  And, more importantly, what can be done to fight the prospect of more Republican victories down-ballot?  Well, I've got an idea, and I know that a handful of others in the blogosphere agree.  I hope it echoes across the Internet and reaches the ears of the top campaign strategists for Barack Obama-- pick Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer as the VP candidate, and the prospects of Democratic victories brighten all across the country.  Whenever I mention Schweitzer's name, people inevitably respond, "But Montana only has three electoral votes!" By focusing on electoral math alone, they miss the point; if all we think about is electoral math, we are doomed to a future of precarious, one-vote majorities-- nowhere near strong enough to pass progressive legislation and undo the damage of the Bush administration, which will take years.

With that in mind, I say the national ticket needs not one, but two galvanizers who can make campaign stops that whip up the crowds and help the down-ballot candidates.  On that count, Brian Schweitzer is our party's secret weapon. He is a fantastic orator-- second only to Obama himself in the party-- and has a proven ability to resonate with Republican and independent voters. He can definitely help us pick up some Rocky Mountain states-- with him on the ticket, Colorado is ours, and the coattails of an Obama/Schweitzer ticket would undoubtedly pull Mark Udall over the finish line-- and we could pick off Nevada and New Mexico as well.  Oregon would become more solidly blue (improving the chances of Merkley or Novick,) as would Washington State (solidifying Gov. Gregoire's re-election chances).  Furthermore, while I doubt we would win Arizona, we would at least force John McCain to fight us on his home turf, which would cost him time and resources, and give the national GOP a headache (ahh, schadenfreude!)

"But wait!" you say, "What about those rust-belt states that we need to win?  Hell, what about New Hampshire and Maine?" To which I say, the aforementioned independent and Republican voters to whom Schweitzer has appealed have been rural and/or working-class citizens who don't want their jobs to be outsourced, are worried about the economy in the wake of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and disapprove of the way the war is going, but who want to keep their hunting rifles.  You think there aren't voters like that in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia?  Of course there are!  Those are the very voters who swing those states, and Schweitzer is exactly the candidate to persuade them to vote Democratic!

As for New Hampshire and Maine, Schweitzer's fiercely independent, non-dogmatic persona will resonate quite well with the numerous independent voters who might otherwise consider McCain.  The libertarian streak that runs through the Mountain West is not all that different from good old-fashioned Yankee independence.  Furthermore, Schweitzer took a bold early stand against the Real ID act, a particularly potent issue in Maine.  If Schweitzer were to make some campaign stops with Congressman (and senate candidate) Tom Allen and use that issue as the centerpiece . . . who knows?  We might just be able to unseat the inexplicably popular Susan Collins.

For those who don't know much about Schweitzer and might worry that he's some sort of DINO, relax-- he is pro-choice, pro-civil unions, and VERY pro-environment.  In fact, he has successfully re-framed the environment issue as "conservationism," not "environmentalism," and it has worked-- people who hunt, fish, and participate in other outdoor activities want to preserve the natural environment.  Schweitzer has framed the issue as something that concerns these very people, thus proving that conserving our environment is not some fringe pursuit, but a very real one for average citizens.  Under Schweitzer's stewardship, Montana has been at the forefront of wind energy.

So, if you agree with me on this, I exhort you to spread the word, write blog posts, and even e-mail the Obama campaign.  I figure that, with a concerted effort, we can at least familiarize more people with his name.  Hey, it can't hurt, right?


Tags: Brian Schweitzer, coattails, Senate races, Vice President (all tags)



Re: The Democratic Party's Secret Weapon

Hes been in my top 5 choices for a long time.  Him, Webb and Richardson are probably my top 3 choices.

by Bobby Obama 2008-04-09 04:59PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party's Secret Weapon

I like Schweitzer, but I still feel like we should have someone with more foreign policy/national security experience, as that's where some deluded people still believe McCain has an advantage.

I like Clark and Richardson in the first tier of possible candidates, Webb and Schweitzer in the second, and Napolitano and Dodd in the third.

by Johnny Gentle Famous Crooner 2008-04-09 05:00PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party's Secret Weapon

What do you think of Biden?

by DPW 2008-04-09 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party's Secret Weapon

Immensely experienced, but I don't know if he brings anything more to the table electorally.

First, he's basically the epitome of the lifetime DC insider, and a bloviator who wouldn't exactly excite the national electorate.

Moreover, I really want the Democrats to get away from the Northeast stranglehold on President/VP candidates. We already run strong in the Northeast, so why pick a Senator from the same region?

It would be great if we get someone from another region, which is one of the reasons I do like Schweitzer. Maybe Obama won't feel like he needs to bolster his national security cred, in which case Schweitzer would be good pick. I think he does, though, which is why I'd prefer Webb or Clark.

by Johnny Gentle Famous Crooner 2008-04-09 05:24PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party's Secret Weapon

I agree with most of what you say, but I just thought Biden would be preferable to Dodd, electorally speaking. Indeed, Dodd is from CT, which is classic Northeaster liberal territory. Delaware is more mid-Atlantic, like Maryland, than Northeast.

But, you're right about Biden's epidomization of DC insider. The question becomes, I suppose, whether his foreign policy chops offer more advantages that the disadvantages associated with his washington seasoning.

Personally, I've been warming up the the Schweitzer idea a lot. I would love to see dems fight for certain parts of the west (CO, NV, NM) and spend less time pandering to Reagan. I also think that guys like Schweitzer help with some of the dems image/branding problems; basically, we have reputation as elitist, weak-kneed, nanny-statists, and dems like Schweitzer, Tester, Webb, and (tom some extent) Biden help in that respect. Call it the regular Joe factor. I also think some of the (small "l") libertarian instincts of western dems would be good for the party. I'm tired of Republicans getting away with calling themselves the "party of liberty/freedom" despite their government abuses and illiberal ideology.

One other advantage of having Schweitzer on the ticket is his executive experience, although it is only one term as governer. In short, he's not perfect, but he has some attractive features. Webb is the same way for me. He doesn't have much government experience, but his few years of service are impressive.

by DPW 2008-04-09 06:08PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party's Secret Weapon

Oh, Richardson can be added to my list. Although I think he ran a pretty terrible campaign--and his pandering bothered me on several occassions--I like his pragmatic governing philosophy and his charisma. He could definitely help in some parts of the west (in addition to some other areas). In fact, he might be my #1 right now, but I'm still considering the options.

by DPW 2008-04-09 06:11PM | 0 recs
Re: The Democratic Party's Secret Weapon

he would be good, but has zero security cred, in that not only didn't he serve in any military, but he doesn't have much overall experience. If we are gonna give a governor, I have a perfect idea. Let's pick former Nevada governor Bob Miller. He was in the Army AND Air Force reserves. He was governor of Nevada from 1989-1999. He was a DA before that. He has experience yet is enough of an outsider to help. Most importantly, he is from a strategic region in which we can win states. Schweitzer is from Montana, where we get killed every election. Miller is from Nevada, which we could pick up, we could get New Mexico, Colorado and he may appeal to Iowans too, etc.

by DiamondJay 2008-04-09 05:45PM | 0 recs
But Schweitzer Did . . .

. . . live overseas, working as an irrigation scientist in Saudi Arabia, so he's no bumpkin.  And my point is that his appeal goes beyond Montana, to the whole Mountain West; he campaigned heavily for Bill Ritter, who is now the Governor of Colorado.  Schweitzer was definitely instrumental in getting people fired up in that race . . . as he would be in this one!

Another key point is, Schweitzer is young.  Yes, I know, you may be thinking that the "young/inexperienced" meme will already hinder Obama, but I actually think it would be a weaker ticket if Obama picked an old establishment candidate-- as if to say, "Sure, we're all for change . . . but in case you're uncomfortable with that, here's some comfort in the form of a stodgy old geezer!"  All the talk of a "balanced" ticket is gravely mistaken; Obama needs a VP who reinforces his strengths, rather than contrasting from them.  The only "balance" needed is that the running mate be white.  In that regard, Schweitzer being rural, white, and Catholic serves as the perfect contrast to an urban black Protestant.  In terms of substance, though, an Obama/Schweitzer ticket would be reinforcement, not contrast.

I'm also thinking in terms of legacy; after eight successful years of an Obama presidency, who can carry the progressive policies forward while simultaneously winning the hearts and minds of Americans?  We all saw what happened with Clinton/Gore-- the economic prosperity and relative international peace of the Clinton era, in theory, should have been enough to propel Gore to the presidency.  But Al Gore-- the over-managed, non-passionate 2000 version, that is-- proved too wooden to captivate the public, thus allowing legions of gullible citizens to fall prey to the GOP's slick marketing of an empty-headed frat boy.  The issues alone are never enough; the beauty of Obama's candidacy is that he knows as much, and communicates his vision with such evocative power that he truly moves people.  The question is, who can keep that momentum going in eight years?  Who can assure us that the progressive cause will not be lost due to stiffness on the stump?  As far as I can tell, Schweitzer is the one who can pull that off.  

by arlaur 2008-04-09 08:26PM | 0 recs


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