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Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Challenger to Hillary Clinton

Brian Schweitzer for President?

Read about it in the Cedar Rapids Gazette

Steffen Schmidt, guest columnist
MARCH 29, 2015 | 10:00 AM
Cedar Rapids Gazette

Edited and revised. 

I had an interesting chat with a friend recently who is very politically astute. He averred that the Democrats should look at Brian Schweitzer for president in 2016. He thinks Schweitzer could do well in the Iowa caucuses, attracting independent voters and even some disaffected Republicans.

Let's think outside the box for a minute.

Schweitzer was Governor of Montana from 2005-2013. He beat a Republican challenger and became the state’s first Democratic governor in 20 years.

His grandparents on the father’s side were ethnic Germans from Kuchurhan in the Odessa Oblast then in Russia, and now in Ukraine. His mother’s grandparents were Irish. He is a distant cousin of Lawrence Welk. He’s a pretty good match for Iowa where after the 2000 Census there were 1,046,153 Germans, or 35.7 percent of the state’s total population, followed by Irish descendants with a total of 395,905 (13.5 percent) of Iowans. I’m sure Lawrence Welk is also a favorite especially among older Iowans.

Schweitzer got a BS degree in international agronomy from Colorado State University in 1978 and an MS in soil science from Montana State University. He used his education to become an irrigation developer on projects in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. He spent several years working in Libya and Saudi Arabia, and speaks Arabic.

Schweitzer is a down-to-earth politician who frequently brought his dog, a Border Collie “Jag,” to the State House and to other events.

As governor Schweitzer showed firm fiscal restraint using his veto authority 95 times including 74 bills in the 2011 legislature. None of his vetoes were overridden. He even used a branding iron to veto some bills which he said were “frivolous, unconstitutional and just bad ideas” that were “in direct contradiction to the expressed will of the people of Montana.”

One problem Schweitzer has is that Montana only has three electoral votes so if he swings his state in the November 2016 election it will probably not be enough to put him over the top.

However, as a running mate for, say, Hillary Clinton, he would be an excellent counterbalance to the “effete,” East Coast, “elite” element that has dominated the Democratic Party. I’m sure there would not be any “Pretty in Pink” appearances like Hillary Clinton’s 1994 Q & A press conference on a “tangled Arkansas land deal” and her controversial commodity trades, at which she wore a pink jacket.

Oh, I know that the Clinton’s are from Arkansas. However, aspirationally they are from New York.

It might be a refreshing change to bring a down-to-earth partner to the 2016 Democratic ticket.

• Steffen Schmidt is Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University, author of 11 books, and is launching a free online course on the Iowa caucuses in September. Google caucusesMOOC Comments: Steffenschmidt2005@gmail.com

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