Brian Schweitzer's Big Problem
posted by Josh Goodman
Did Schweitzer receive suspiciously favorable mortgages?
Has he lobbied for an unsavory foreign government?
Did he once make some comment, which, if twisted and presented out of context, would be embarrassing?
Probably, but that's beside the point.
Schweitzer's problem is that he's up for reelection this year. The Montana Secretary of State's Office tells me that Montana law forbids a candidate from running for two offices at once. So, Schweitzer can't hedge his bets, as Lyndon Johnson, Lloyd Bentsen and Joe Lieberman have done before him. Earlier this month, Schweitzer won the Democratic nomination for governor.
If Schweitzer asks out of the gubernatorial race, the Democrats can replace him on the ballot up to 75 days before the election. If Obama picked Schweitzer a couple of weeks before the Democratic National Convention, that would be an option.
The problem, however, is that taking that step would probably cause the Republican nominee, Roy Brown, to win the gubernatorial race. Nate Silver explains:
Another argument against Schweitzer, the one I have long thought most persuasive, is that while most have tended to think Montana is undergoing a blue revolution, the Democrats in Montana have a much thinner bench than most realize and his departure to run on a national ticket would hurt Montana Dems badly. Take Schweitzer out of the governor's mansion, his Lieutenant Governor is a Republican. There's no obvious replacement. If Schweitzer chooses to accept a VP offer, he knows he's going to leave a mess and some unhappy allies who are negatively affected.
Now, you might wonder whether the Montana governorship is really so important as to affect Obama's choice. Schweitzer is, after all, one of the few current governors who has forged a national profile. He's done that with the help of his dog, his bolo tie and his personality. As a running mate, he'd be a skilled communicator and true Washington outsider (he's never served in elected office anywhere within 1,800 miles of Washington, D.C.), with Western cred.
But Obama would have to know that creating turmoil in a state would result in some unfavorable press. And Schweitzer might turn down Obama's offer, realizing that accepting it would burn bridges back home. After all, the same traits that make him an attractive vice presidential candidate also make him someone with a lot to lose by ending his gubernatorial service prematurely.
Anyone who has served less than four years as governor of a small state (in terms of population) was always going to be a long shot. Given that his reelection bid is a complicating factor, the odds against Schweitzer are even longer.
Previously in my vice-presidential series: