Schweitzer Already Touted For 2016, Cabinet
"No politician, we repeat NO politician, just happens to go to Iowa," writes Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. "Every one of them knows that an Iowa trip means the press will float the idea of a presidential run."
So it is with Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, this year's guest speaker at Sen. Tom Harkin's annual Steak Fry.
Schweitzer was on the long version of the vice presidential short list, and is also mentioned as a member of a possible Obama Administration cabinet, as Secretary of Energy or Interior.
He needs to get re-elected first. Montana is one of a dozen states that elects governors in the presidential year, but Schweitzer is feeling secure enough about his own re-election chances over an under-financed Republican opponent to take time away and give Harkin a hand at the senator's biggest annual fundraiser.
Schweitzer, a folksy rancher, is one of a group of huntin' and fishin', bolo-tied, anti-gun control Westerners that many Democratic strategists cite when arguing that the compass of victory is pointing west, not south. He raised his national profile last month at the Democratic National Convention with a well-received speech that focused on energy policy and jabbed at the Republicans.
"After eight years of a White House waiting hand and foot on big oil, John McCain offers more of the same," Schweitzer told the delegates. "At a time of skyrocketing fuel prices, when American families are struggling to keep their gas tanks full, John McCain voted 25 times against renewable and alternative energy."
In his first campaign, Schweitzer, now 53, narrowly lost a 2000 U.S. Senate race to incumbent Conrad Burns. He came back in 2004 when the incumbent governor stepped down, and as part of a bipartisan image chose a Republican lieutenant governor.
One of Schweitzer's first moves as governor was to recommend that Montana's National Guard troops be recalled from Iraq to help fight wildfires in the state.
Before running for office, Schweitzer worked on irrigation projects in Africa and the Middle East (he is fluent in Arabic) and served in the Agriculture Department under the Clinton Administration.
The Steak Fry speaker's slot is a certain route to presidential speculation. The recent list of guests? 2005: John Edwards. 2006: Barack Obama, in what in retrospect looks like the start of his presidential campaign. 2007: the entire Democratic presidential field.
But with the 2008 election still seven and a half weeks ahead, even the most devoted political junkies aren't ready to look that many chess moves ahead. "I'm the biggest Schweitzer fan around," writes Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, "and even I am not ready to start talking 2016."