Not only does the Los Angeles Times 'discover' Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer but includes some speculation about who might be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. Enjoy:
Democrats Have Eyes on Red-State Governor
Some are sizing up Montana's Schweitzer for 2008. But his focus now is on a campaign for a coal-based fuel.
By Sam Howe Verhovek, Times Staff Writer
April 12, 2006
BUTTE, Mont. — Just about everywhere Gov. Brian Schweitzer goes in Montana — or elsewhere, for that matter — he brings along a dog, a black rock and a small vial of clear, nearly odorless fluid.
The dog is his 2-year-old border collie, Jag, an obedient, camera-friendly companion who helps fill out the down-home image honed by the Democratic governor, who wears jeans, bolo ties and boots to most events.
The rock is a lump of coal, about 120 billion tons of which sits just beneath the lonesome plains of eastern Montana. And the fluid is a synthetic fuel derived from the coal.
Coals-to-fuel, says the governor, a soils scientist who lived in the Middle East for eight years in the 1980s, will be "the greatest boon to engineering and technology since NASA was created" in the late 1950s. With Montana coal, the U.S. could unleash itself from "the sheiks, the dictators, the rats and crooks around the world who are bent on destroying our way of life."
The burly, jolly Schweitzer could just as well be selling snake oil, to hear some of his critics tell it. One environmental group dismisses his promise of earth-friendly coal development this way: "The term 'clean coal' is like saying 'safe cigarettes.' "
But while the coal remains largely untapped, the 50-year-old Schweitzer is not going unnoticed.
A Democrat in a conservative state that gave George W. Bush nearly 60% of the vote in the last two presidential elections, Schweitzer is riding a wave of popularity here: 68% approval ratings in one recent independent poll. Another poll, by the Montana Chamber of Commerce, found that 57% believed the state government was headed in the right direction, whereas only 47% felt that way about the state's economy.
Schweitzer's success rankles GOP leaders here — "all hat and no cattle," one says of his showmanship; another calls him "a loose cannon."
But it intrigues some Democrats, who wonder whether Schweitzer is the sort of red-state national candidate who could help the party break beyond the "blue zone" of electoral votes that has kept it out of the White House in the last two elections. (Democrats have won along the West Coast, and in the Northeast and Great Lakes region, but endured a virtual shutout in the South, the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain states.)
Schweitzer is one of several red-state Democratic leaders who may emerge as either presidential or vice presidential contenders. Others include Mark R. Warner, who just finished his term-limited four-year stint as governor of Virginia with strong approval ratings that helped his lieutenant governor win the race to succeed him, and Janet Napolitano, Arizona's governor.
Democrats may well consider someone to "break the mold" on their national ticket, said Ed Sarpolus, a Michigan pollster. "There certainly is a feeling that they need someone who can really relate to voters in that huge belt of red.
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