Schweitzer Playing Coy Over Clinton Presidency Remarks

Sunday, 20 Oct 2013 01:35 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer is playing it coy with his home state's press over whether he plans to launch a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, denying that he told a national media source he's considering running even if Hillary Clinton does too.

On Friday, Real Clear Politics writer Scott Conroy reported that in an exclusive interview Schweitzer indicated "he may launch a White House bid, even if frontrunner Hillary Clinton also enters the race."

But shortly after the story hit the national news, Schweitzer told the Great Falls Tribune  in Montana that he was being interviewed by RCP for a critique of Congress, and he "doesn't know about the rest of it," concerning the resulting story.

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But in widely reported remarks to Conroy, Schweitzer fueled the rumors of his considering a presidential bid, taking a dig at both Clinton and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also mentioned as a possible Republican nominee.

"There’s a whole lot of America that looks at each other and says, 'Well, there are 340 million people living in America. Isn’t there somebody other than a Bush or a Clinton who can be president in these modern times?'" Schweitzer, a Democrat, said in the interview. "Isn’t there hope for somebody who’s running a business or who has served overseas or comes from a different occupation to become president? Are we now in the era of royalty again? So I think there’s some level of frustration about that."

Schweitzer also said in the RCP interview that his being an underdog in race would not hurt his chances.

"Who would’ve thunk [Barack] Obama would come out of this thing [in 2008] when you had, my God, [Chris] Dodd, [Joe] Biden, Billy Richardson, Hillary Clinton?" he asked.

But later on Friday, Schweitzer told Great Falls reporter John Adams that all he told RCP was that he "holds the people of Iowa and New Hampshire in high regard," mentioning his fondness for the residents of the first two states in the country where presidential primaries are held.

The former governor traveled several times to both states near the end of his term as Montana governor.

“If you’ve got the fire in your belly and you’re willing to jump off a cliff without a parachute, then you go out to Iowa and New Hampshire and throw your hat out in the ring,” Schweitzer told The Tribune during his exit interview in December. “But ask Michele Bachmann how that turned out. Ask President [Tom] Vilsack and President Bob Kerrey and President [Dick] Gephardt and President [Tim] Pawlenty how it went in Iowa,” Schweitzer said, jokingly referring to a list of presidential hopefuls who stumbled after focusing on the Iowa caucuses.

Schweitzer came under fire in July for backing away from seeking Montana's open U.S. Senate seat, being vacated by U.S. Democratic Sen. Max Baucus next year. The former governor, at the last minute, that he didn't want to leave Montana and go to Washington D.C., leaving his party scrambling for a last-minute replacement on the 2014 ticket.

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"I love Montana. I want to be here. There are all kinds of people that think I should be in the U.S. Senate," Schweitzer said. "But I never wanted to be in the U.S. Senate. I kicked the tires. I walked to the edge and looked over," he said in July.

His refusal has been seen as a blow to the Democratic Party's chances of retaining the seat and may hurt the Democrats' hopes to keep control of the Senate.

On Friday, Schweitzer told the Great Falls paper that people are viewing Congress in low regard, because "it looks to many of us like they go there with the greatest of intentions and sometimes that lasts the whole term, sometimes it only lasts a few months. Then they decide their real job is to keep their mouth shut and get reelected, and if they get reelected they’ll be considered successes.”

But Schweitzer, even while denying he's interested in running for president, dropped some hints to The Tribune that he might after all.

“I’m still a citizen of the United States. I still qualify, I suppose. I’m still young enough that I don’t rule anything out,” said Schweitzer.

The former governor was elected in May as board chairman of Stillwater Mining Co. in Montana, and says he's "very happy with what I'm doing right now."

Related stories:

Mont. Democrats Scramble to Replace Schweitzer in Senate Race


Schweitzer Surprise Gives GOP Hope for Senate Gain


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