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Montana Politics

Republicans on Schweitzer: Wrong and Afraid

It’s hard to understand why the Montana GOP hasn’t had more success in statewide races, given their deep understanding of Montana politics.

Yesterday, from the former Communications Director of the Montana GOP, we got this insight about a potential Democratic primary involving Brian Schweitzer running for the Senate:

While I’d love to see the list of Democratic candidates who would run against Schweitzer, much less challenge him at this point, I’m more entertained at the way Republican political leaders seem to believe their antipathy towards Schweitzer is shared by voters in the state. Yes, Schweitzer often and publicly humiliated the Montana GOP, but I’d hazard a guess that most of us in the state enjoyed it thoroughly.

Don’t believe my take? Just look at the way the alleged first tier of Republican candidates for the Senate have been dancing around the race, waiting for Schweitzer to make his move. Whether it’s Daines or Zinke or Rerun Rehberg, not a single one has the courage to announce a bid for the Senate without knowing Schweitzer’s next move.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • his left flank is exposed on energy issues, so if the race is on, I’d expect some preemptive, Tester-esque hippie bashing, which is a popular and effective technique.

  • It would probably be far more productive to start tearing down Schweitzer now, because electing Ryan Zinke to the Senate would be the most progressive choice.

    • AND, lest we forget, the Barking Seal’s running mate has his OWN CIA! That’s pretty special, as in Special Ed. Politics! Sheesh. Herr Zhtinke doesn’t have a chance.

    • no, what I’m saying is once the Brian announces, his first move should be to bash hippie environmentalists to cover his exposure, because we all know Montana’s bright, sustainable future depends on peddling coal to China and piping bitumen through the keystone pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico.

      • Serious question. You return to the “hippy bashing” trope more often than just about any argument we get into here or your site. I’m confused, though, what separates “hippy bashing” as rhetorical or ethical strategy from bashing people you perceive as sellouts or moderates.

        How about we just focus on the argument instead of positioning ourselves as victims?

        As for me, I oppose Keystone XL, for a lot of reasons. I think it’s bad short-term policy for American energy and worse for long-term impact on the environment. That disagreement alone (or even on multiple issues) doesn’t disqualify Schweitzer from getting my vote, should he choose to run, for many of the same reasons we’ve discussed re: Tester over and over again.

        • if you choose to not make an issue of Schweitzer’s support for the pipeline, then you allow the misrepresentation and outright lies about the project’s alleged positive impact, peddled by politicians and media, to go unchallenged.

          I think you’ve shown that’s smart politics, if your goal is to see Schweitzer elected. and that does seem to be your goal, since you’re asking for lists of Democrats who would dare challenge the mighty Brian. I believe that very topic was discussed here, not too long ago.

          there are other democrats who wouldn’t so easily sell Montana to TransCanada for the promise of a few jobs, but those democrats would be a much tougher sell in the general election. Brian is a chance for what we’re being told will be a slam dunk. have fun with that.

          • Most of those Democrats wouldn’t just be a “tougher sell.” They’d lose.

            It’s an entirely fair question to ask: which candidate do you support who could win a statewide Senate race? It turns out that it does matter which candidate wins.

            Whether it’s from your position on the enlightened left or Mr. Shipp’s ill-informed position on the right, I’m hearing a lot of talk about other potential Democratic candidates who could win, but I haven’t even heard of any considering the race.

            Isn’t it a fair question to ask who they might be?

            • the longer Schweitzer delays announcing, the less likely anyone else can prepare to run.

              isn’t that the plan?

              • Thank you for proving my point.

                The fact is that the candidate who can satisfy you and win a general election in Montana simply doesn’t exist. It’s absurd to keep having the same conversation about an impossibility.

                • money determines who is a viable candidate in our political system, so by waiting this long to announce, Brian is keeping other candidates who could be viable if they raised enough money to get their message out from being able to compete.

                • Duck and dodge.

                  Okay. Take money out of the equation. In a system of publicly financed elections, who beats Schweitzer in Montana in a primary? Who comes within 20 points?

                • if Brian announces, we all know no one will challenge him in a primary.

                  what if Brian decides no? you’ve already condemned any non-Brian candidate to be a sure-fire loser in a general election. are Democrats in this state really in that bad a shape that retaining this seat depends solely in Brian Schweitzer?

                • When did I condemn all non-Schweitzer candidates to defeat? Like many of your claims, that’s just not true.

                  I totally understand your desire to change the subject from your initial observation, but I’d still love to hear who you think could beat BS in a Dem. primary.

                • Most of those Democrats wouldn’t just be a “tougher sell.” They’d lose.

                  I’m still hoping to see more from Franke Wilmer. I think she could give BS a run for his money.

                • As always, terribly enlightening to have a discussion with you. I thoroughly enjoy debating what you imagine or want me to have said.

                  The truth, of course, is that any Democrat who wins the primary will not measure up to your pristine notions of progressivism and we’ll repeat the same discussion again.

                  It’s got to be gratifying to always be right–especially when you are factually wrong.

  • I think Schweitzer is a weaker Senate candidate than he ever was governor candidate, and lizard is exactly why. Montana politics have polarized just like national politics, and the far or even center left can’t be counted on for votes or support just because politician has D in front of their name.

    Many progressives may like Schweitzer as governor, where he stood between us and an absolutely irresponsible GOP legislature. Compared to the people Montanans elect to represent them generally, he looks downright progressive.

    But in the Senate he’s going to look a lot more conservative, and lizard et al will not be behind him. I don’t think the lizards are a huge factor in electoral arithmetic (sorry liz, I’m having you stand in for a whole group of people with whom you generally agree b/c any label for them is going to come across as offensive), but they ARE essential for building campaign momentum, getting united party support, putting volunteers on the ground, etc. I think he’ll find a lot less enthusiasm on that front when his votes are listed next to Bernie Sanders, not Derek Skees.

    Schweitzer may still wallop anyone the GOP has at this point, but that’s only because the MT GOP is highly dysfunctional. The unfortunate fact, and the reason we’ll have a GOP Representative for the foreseeable future (in my estimation) is that there is simply no conceivable human being agreeable to both the energetic left in MT and to 50.1% of the population. The fact that it is the ‘responsible’ Republicans who are fearing for their re-election prospects, not those who continually clashed with the exceedingly moderate or even rightist (on a national scale) Bullock and Schweitzer, ought to be evidence enough of that.

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