New Threat to Hillary Clinton: Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer
In an interview with MSNBC this week, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer signaled that he will run for the Democratic nomination, saying that he plans to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties. Iowa is the first caucus in the country and the winner of the state’s Democratic caucus has gone on to win the nomination in every election since 1996.
Schweitzer is hardly a front-runner at this point but his ability to win over conservative and moderate voters gives him a significant advantage when it comes to a viable general election run. A rare Democratic governor of a red state, Schweitzer won his gubernatorial election in 2004 with 50 percent of the vote and was so successful in his first term that he dominated his reelection, winning with 66 percent of the vote.
Despite his popularity with red state voters, Schweitzer was well-known for using his veto powers to quell the Republican legislature, vetoing a total of 95 bills over eight years in office. He pushed to expand alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and biofuel around the state, created legislation to increase college enrollment (increasing the number of graduates in the state by 6 percent over six years), and pushed for a single-payer state health plan. At the end of his tenure, the state had the biggest budget surplus in Montana’s history with $414 million after eighteen years when the average surplus was $54 million.
While Governor, he served as the Finance Chair, Recruitment Chair, Vice Chair, and ultimately Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. In 2008, he was heavily mentioned as a favorite to be Barack Obama’s running mate before the President went with Joe Biden. He settled for a primetime spot at the 2008 Democratic Convention. He declined to run for Senate in 2014 to attempt a presidential bid.
It’s a longshot bid but Schweitzer could end up being a very attractive alternative to front runner Hillary Clinton. In his home state of Montana, Schweitzer trails Hillary 47 percent to 26 percent but it’s a rare poll in which Hillary doesn’t have a 50+ point advantage. Schweitzer still has three years to improve those numbers and 99 stops around Iowa is a good place to start.
(Image courtesy of USDAGov)