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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

08-Dem: Governor Brian Schweitzer for Campaign Manager

Posted by Bob Brigham

While Kos wants Schweitzer for President, I'd be happy to have him manage the campaign. In a must read Salon interview, Montana's Governor Brian Schweitzer offers the following advice:

And how do you persuade the most conservative voters -- the ones for whom abortion and gay marriage are be-all, end-all issues -- that they should think about education and healthcare as important "moral values" too?

The most conservative voters? The beauty is that I only need about 50 percent to win. The most conservative voters will not even give me a shot. I don't need 100 percent of the vote. Just do the right thing, for God's sake. And if that means I'm only going to be governor for the next three and a half years, so be it. Just tell 'em who are you are, tell 'em what you believe in, and tell 'em in a way that they're gonna believe you.

Schweitzer on standing up:

"You know who the most successful Democrats have been through history?" he asks. "Democrats who've led with their hearts, not their heads. Harry Truman, he led with his heart. Jack Kennedy led with his heart. Bill Clinton, well, he led with his heart, but it dropped about 2 feet lower in his anatomy later on.

"We are the folks who represent the families. Talk like you care. Act like you care. When you're talking about issues that touch families, it's OK to make it look like you care. It's OK to have policies that demonstrate that you'll make their lives better -- and talk about it in a way that they understand. Too many Democrats -- the policy's just fine, but they can't talk about it in a way that anybody else understands."

That sounds like a not-so-veiled criticism of John Kerry.

Oh, Washington, D.C. The problem is, they get to Washington, they drink that water, they get Washington-speak. This is not a criticism of John Kerry. It's the reason that people keep saying, "Oh, [the next Democratic president is] likely to be a governor." It's because governors are faced with this all the time: Their language has to be the language that is clear enough for Joe or Mary Six-Pack to understand. When you speak on the Senate floor or on the House floor or in a Cabinet meeting, you don't even have to use the words that we use. It's a new language -- you know, "budget reconciliation, blah blah blah blah."

No. When you're out visiting with folks in a way that touches their heart, you tell them, "We're going to find the money to do the right thing." Well, when a senator stands on the Senate floor, it'd take him two hours to explain that.

It isn't about policy stances:

You need to have good solid policy -- that's important. But you've got to touch people. They've got to know you; they've got to know that you believe in what you're saying. And that's probably more important when people vote than your policies. Because how the hell are they going to raise their families, maybe work two jobs, go hunting on the weekend, bowl and drink beer with the boys on Tuesday night, and still have enough time to figure out who's telling the truth about the budget, about healthcare, about education?

So it's about the candidate himself -- about coming across as authentic and as someone voters will say is "one of us"?

They look up there and say, "That guy's a straight shooter. If I wasn't so busy bowling and working and fishing, and if I had time to spend on these issues, I bet I'd come to the same conclusions that that guy would. But it's a good thing that he's doing all that studying and stuff, because I'm busy fishing and bowling."

On consultants:

What happened was -- consultants. "Oh, this issue, that issue, some other issue." They're all talking about the issues. And I just kept pushing them in the Senate race: "Why don't we just run the gun ad and nothing else?" And they said, "No, no we've got all these issues."

So this time around, when we started shooting ads, they had some polling data, and they knew what pushed the buttons of the people in Montana. And I said, "No. This is the way this campaign is going to work: The more times that we run ads with me on a horse or carrying a gun -- it's better if I'm doing both -- the more likely it is that we'll call me a governor at the end of the day. Because what those ads said is, "I'm a real Montanan."

Talk is cheap...

A whole lot of it's visual. I heard somebody say, very early in the last presidential campaign, that they turned the volume off on their television and just watched the two candidates, and they said, "Bush is going to win." You know, when Bush walked in the room, he'd say, "Oh, hey, how ya doin' there?" giving somebody a high-five right there, giving somebody a thumbs up. When Kerry walked in, he found his way to the podium, and he described in painful detail -- with big words, in a strong way -- all the things that he was going to make right for the American people. [...]

Look, I started this out by saying that Democrats can win if they lead with their hearts. Let people feel you! Don't try to verbalize. Let them feel you first. If you're not a passionate person -- I happen to be. If I'm for something, you're gonna know it pretty quick. And if I'm agin it, you're gonna know it too. I'm straight about those things. Some people can't do that. Maybe they've had a lot of time in politics, or they're lawyers, or it's just their makeup. And they have all these highfalutin pollsters and media people, and they say, "Well, there's this demographic that kind of bleeds into this demographic, and you don't want to lose these over here because you were on this." I don't believe any of it. I think most people will support you if they know that you'll stand your ground.

Even if they don't stand on the same ground?

That's right.

On electability:

And then it was "electability." Democrats were thinking, "Oh gosh, we've just got to win. Let's get somebody that's electable." And they thought, "This guy Kerry, he's a smart guy, a senator; he served in the war, so they can't ding him for that; he voted for the war." So they started making it into a thinking thing rather than using the heart. Now, Kerry may have been the best candidate, but he wasn't selected because he was the best candidate from the heart. He was selected because in Iowa and New Hampshire people intellectualized it. They said -- and remember, this wasn't Joe and Mary Six-Pack making this decision -- "I love Howard Dean, but I think I'll marry John Kerry because Mom and Dad are going to like him better."

Schweitzer's first 100 days in office were a huge success. If we don't let the DLC water down our populist message, this can be the playbook for historic wins across the west during the 2006 backlash.

Posted at 01:05 PM in 2008 Election - President, 2008 President - Democrats, Democrats | Technorati