Draft Brian Schweitzer!

[ Posted Thursday, August 7th, 2014 – 16:49 UTC ]

There's been a shakeup in the Montana Senate race. John Walsh, who was earlier appointed to the Senate (when Max Baucus left to become ambassador to China), has now announced he will be removing his name from the ballot. This leaves the Democratic nomination empty.

Walsh had been under fire for over a week, since it was revealed that he plagiarized significant amounts of his final paper to get a master's degree from the Army War College. His initial response was weak, as he attempted to use post-traumatic stress disorder as an excuse for his lapse in ethics. This did not go over well with veterans, to put it mildly. After ducking the press for days and taking a personal day off, today Walsh did the right thing and removed his name from the ballot (just beating a deadline to do so), putting party loyalty above personal ambition.

This, however, leaves the Democratic ballot slot empty, with very little time to nominate a replacement. This nomination will not be by primary election or caucus (Montana's has already happened), but by the old "smoke-filled back rooms" method (which, even in Montana, are probably smoke-free, these days). The party itself will name a replacement, after it has a convention of state party leaders. In other words, it'll work exactly the way those who champion getting rid of the Seventeenth Amendment would like it to.

There is one obvious choice the party bigwigs could make: draft Brian Schweitzer!

Now, I realize that this might not work, for a number of reasons. In the first place, Schweitzer might not accept the nomination. Fair enough -- if he doesn't want the job, nobody can force him to run. But there are several reasons why he might be convinced to take a second look at the option, especially if the Democratic Party agreed beforehand that he could run for president in 2016, with no hard feelings.

Schweitzer, for those unfamiliar with the man, is a former governor of Montana, who is still fondly remembered by many voters in the state. He is, in a word, electable. In his last statewide election, he beat his Republican opponent by a margin of 33 points. That is nothing to sneeze at, folks, in the very purple state of Montana. Schweitzer has his flaws, but he still represents the best chance Democrats have of holding on to this Senate seat. And, flawed though he may be, he'll still likely be a better Democrat than Max Baucus ever was (easy example: Baucus singlehandedly both delayed and weakened as much as he could the Affordable Care Act, when he was in the Senate).

The real question, though, is whether Schweitzer would settle for a Senate seat, because he quite obviously has his eyes on a bigger prize. Schweitzer is likely going to throw his hat in the presidential ring next time around, and he doesn't exactly seem to consider Congress worthy of his talents. Here is what he recently had to say on the subject:

Congress is a miserable place. If a bus ran over a senator or a congressman tomorrow, we wouldn't even miss them. Because all they have is [one] vote [out of 100 or 435]. They don't get to run anything. They sit around and wait until the train starts leaving the station, and if it looks like the wheels are moving a little bit fast, they start moving quickly to get on the train and issue a press release: "I am now a cosponsor of the train that was heading east!"

Um, tell us how you really feel, Brian.

This interview had plenty of other unusual quotes from it, which Schweitzer has since apologized for (but which will indeed come back to haunt him if he does decide on a presidential bid). He's known for being a bit off-the-cuff, to put it mildly. This could present all sorts of problems for him in the future, as indeed it already has.

Still, if the Montana Democratic Party would offer him the chance of running for Senate this year and then agree to not complain if Schweitzer ran for president in 2016, this could turn out to be a win-win situation for both. If Schweitzer actually won the White House, then he would at least have held the seat for another two years. If he runs for president and loses, then he's still got four more years in the Senate -- a higher profile than just "ex-governor," should he try again in 2020. If he doesn't run for president at all, then he's got a good job for the next six years.

Of course, this discounts what the voters might think of him running for Senate and then turning around and making a bid for president. But most of the voters in Montana are already aware of Schweitzer's ambition, so at least they'd be voting to put him in the Senate with eyes wide open.

John Walsh, even before the plagiarism was exposed, didn't really have much of a chance of winning. Pundits across the spectrum admitted as much, as the polls clearly showed a likely Republican pickup. Of the other candidates who are already being mentioned as a possible Senate candidate, none has as high a profile as Schweitzer, and none has his record as a fairly popular governor. With a strong Republican candidate, the race may already be lost for Democrats.

But if the Montana Democratic Party drafted Schweitzer, it could be a game-changer. It could put the state back in play again -- in a year where every race might be the difference between Republicans taking control in the Senate. Montana voters might decide to elect Schweitzer to the Senate even knowing that there's a good chance he'll start his White House run soon after he takes office. It's the best chance Democrats have of keeping this crucial seat, in fact. Which is why drafting Schweitzer for this race would be an excellent idea.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


5 Comments on “Draft Brian Schweitzer!”

  1. [1] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    That bolo might fly out there in the hinterlands, but here in civilization, he'll have to wear the correct funny looking thing around his neck - in red or blue.

  2. [2] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    BTW - This ISIS crisis is Obama's fault, of course.

    "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." - W

    Can we see more of King George W's paint-by-number pitchers now?

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    That bolo might fly out there in the hinterlands, but here in civilization, he'll have to wear the correct funny looking thing around his neck - in red or blue.

    That bolo might funny looking the correct fly out he'll have to wear there in red or blue. That bolo might fly out here in the his neck - in civilization, here in thinterlands, but there in red or blue. That bolo might fly out the hing around his neck - in civilization, he'll have to wear the hinterlands, but here in red or blue. That bolo might fly out he'll have to wear thinterlands, but he'll have to wear the correct fly out here in civilization, here in the his neck - in civilization, he'll have.

    Yep, makes about as much sense.. :D

    BTW - This ISIS crisis is Obama's fault, of course.

    Of course..

    It was Bush who left a "Stable And Self-Reliant Iraq"..

    Obama only CLAIMED to do that and then tucked his tail and left Iraq...


  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    As to the subject matter at hand.....

    Anything that increases the chances of Democrat control of the Senate is bad for this country...

    Brian, stay where you are... Do not go into the election... :D


  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Another reason for Schweitzer not to run is that, according to sources, the GOP has a lot of dirt on Schweitzer beyond the Foot/Mouth incidents...

    Word is Schweitzer doesn't want that dirty laundry aired...

    On the other hand, he could reason that, better to air it now in a Senate race so that, when he decides to run for POTUS, it will all be old news...

    On the THIRD hand... :D If Schweitzer loses the Senate race, it will likely end his POTUS aspirations for the foreseeable future...

    Especially if his loss can be attributed to said airing of said dirty laundry...

    My guess is that Schweitzer will decide to keep his powder dry and save it for the POTUS race...

    Of course, that analysis likely has MORE than a little wishful thinking in it.. :D


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