This is the eleventh in our series of profiles on Barack Obama’s most likely candidates for the vice presidential nomination. You can view our other profiles here.
Brian Schweitzer is among the names mentioned most often as a possibility for the vice presidential slot on an Obama ticket. He was elected governor of Montana, a state slowly trending blue, in 2004 by a margin of four points over his competitor, former Secretary of State Bob Brown.
I’ve had difficulty finding a demographic breakdown of his support in current numbers (if anyone knows of a source, leave it in the comments section), but as of 2006, Schweitzer was massively popular among his constituents, winning the approval of some 70% of voters. He wins the support of 80% of Hispanic voters, as well as 70% of the white vote. He’s popular among all political varieties, winning better than fifty percent in each demographic. Especially of note is the fact that Schweitzer wins the approval of 80% of moderates, demonstrating the enormity of his cross-over appeal. He has overwhelming numbers among both pro-gun and anti-gun voters (65% and 78% approval respectively), and he holds the approval of both pro and anti-labor voters by similar margins. Schweitzer also gains the approval of a whopping 73% of voters over 55, which likely means he can help Obama secure this demographic which currently eludes him.
On the issues, Schweitzer has stood firm for a woman’s right to choose. His energy policy is forward looking. He seeks to have 25% of all U.S. energy to come from alternative energy resources by 2025 (under his leadership, Montana has already passed a bill requiring utilities to receive 15% of their energy from renewable resources by 2015). The Governor has demonstrated his commitment to alternative energy through the creation of two new wind farms, and has announced the construction of four more. As governor, Schweitzer increased spending on education by 27%, and capped tuition at Montana’s public universities to ensure the affordability of higher education. He’s expanded government assistance to seniors through the Big Sky Rx program, which offers Medicare recipients additional monthly funds to help them afford their prescription drugs.
Interestingly, Gov. Schweitzer’s previous career, agricultural science, has given him enormous experience in a variety of foreign locales. From Schweitzer’s website:
After graduation from Montana State, Brian and [his wife] Nancy began a career of irrigation development that took them to Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. He has built hundreds of miles of roads, poured thousands of yards of concrete, buried many miles of pipe, and built hundreds of structures, from houses to warehouses to distillation plants. During seven years in Saudi Arabia, Brian developed over 28,000 acres of irrigated cropland.
I don’t expect anyone to count this as foreign policy experience, of course, but after electing a president who had literally never left the country before assuming office, it would be nice to have a ticket featuring two men well acquainted with other cultures throughout the world (Schweitzer is even fluent in Arabic). Not to mention, Brian Schweitzer won office by featuring a Repulican, John Bohlinger, as his lieutenant governor. He makes a perfect partner for re-enforcing Obama’s vision of creating a post-partisan politics. His relative youth (he’s only 52) would also underline the reform message of Obama’s campaign, and would help to highlight McCain’s greatest weakness, the concerns of voters that he’s too old for the job.
The only immediate downside that I can see to a Schweitzer vice presidency is that it’s hard to imagine him being able to deliver his home state of Montana, which voted for Bush over Kerry by better than a 20 point margin, and where McCain currently leads Obama by double digits. But then, who knows what can change between now and November, and if nothing else, Schweitzer is bound to appeal to the region at large, perhaps putting some of those blue-trending mountain-west states in play.