Alternate headline: “Man running for nomination of wrong party.” No, seriously — this is noteworthy not for the easy left-wing dig at O but because it proves this guy’s not planning a serious primary challenge to Hillary. The left is looking for someone to make things interesting but their true love, Elizabeth Warren, has showed no interest whereas Schweitzer has. And he’s probably good enough if the goal is simply to hassle Hillary a bit from the left, to make sure she panders appropriately on things like adding a public option to ObamaCare.
But an “in it to win it” candidacy a la Obama’s in 2008? Nope. Which means, between this and Bridgegate, Hillary’s having the best week she’s had in ages.
But at the moment, Schweitzer is rubbing his chin, looking up at the ceiling, searching – unsuccessfully – for just the right words. The question was simple enough: Is there a single thing President Obama has done that you consider a positive achievement?
Finally, he spoke.
“My mother, God rest her soul, told me ‘Brian, if you can’t think of something nice to say about something change the subject,’” he said.
But he couldn’t help himself, slamming Obama’s record on civil liberties (the NSA revelations were “un-effing-believable”), his competency (“They just haven’t been very good at running things”), and above all, Obamacare (“It will collapse on its own weight”)…
But what Schweitzer does have is a message that’s unique in the likely Democratic field. The former governor is gambling that Democrats won’t just want an alternative to Clinton in 2016–they’ll want a complete and total rejection of the Obama presidency.
Which is insane. Specifically, as Jamelle Bouie says, it’s insane because black Democrats continue to support O with stratospheric job approval numbers after turning out for him to an unprecedented degree in 2012. If they had turned out at the same rate that year as they did in 2004, Romney would have won the election — and Democratic leaders are, of course, keenly aware of it. Their great fear in 2016 is that black and Latino turnout rates will revert to pre-Obama levels, leaving the party in deep trouble against a strong GOP nominee. (That’s why Christie worked hard to pad his margins with Latinos in his gubernatorial run last year. Ninety percent of his own primary pitch will be aimed at convincing righties that he can pick off more votes from those more or less ungettable groups than anyone else can.) The point is, as natural as it is for ideologues to try to reorient a party their way after eight years of an incumbent president making compromises to stay viable in the center, liberal Democrats have a special challenge in running away from O. They need to reject disfavored parts of his legacy while taking care not to reject them too harshly lest minority voters in the Obama coalition take offense.
Schweitzer seems not to care about that, which means he’s either (a) a loudmouth whose self-satisfaction in “telling it like it is” leaves him blind to basic electoral realities or (b) a realist who knows that no netroots fundraising drive for him is going to present a serious challenge to the Clinton machine. Obama was a unique candidate in his historical significance and retail skills; Schweitzer is more of a colorful gadfly. The best he can do from this campaign, he may have concluded, is raise his national profile, move the primary discussion to the left, and maybe guarantee himself some sort of cabinet position or ambassadorship if Hillary wins. In which case, yeah, he can get away with some “Obama’s good for nothing” talk. For sheer amusement alone, righties should hope he jumps in and gives Clinton hell. My impression after watching a few interviews is that he’s a loose cannon, which will make an otherwise dull, perfunctory Democratic primary fun, and the more he succeeds in making Hillary pander to liberals the more ammo the GOP will have against her in the general election. Plus — get this — he’s pro-gun, at least enough so that he opposes a new assault-weapons ban. That alone is enough to render him DOA in a presidential primary, but watching him needle Hillary from the left on nearly every issue and then switch to defending the Second Amendment when she starts needling him about guns would be endless entertainment. Let’s make it happen, America.