(Cross-Posted at Senate Guru)
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 both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (I'm hoping for Obama as the nominee)-- 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, and Pennsylvania? 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. Make some campaign stops with Tom Allen and use that issue as the centerpiece and . . . who knows? We might just be able to unseat 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 union, 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 in which to do so. 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 Clinton and Obama campaigns. I figure that, with a concerted effort, we can at least familiarize more people with his name. Hey, it can't hurt, right?