Schweitzer: Democrats ’08 Nominee Could Have Chance in Montana

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – The Democratic presidential nominee could have a chance at winning Montana in 2008 if Republicans offer a candidate weak on guns, Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Thursday.

Schweitzer, in a lengthy interview with The Associated Press, said some of the Republicans seeking the nomination, particularly former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, would not do well because of their history on gun control.

If such a Republican is on the ballot, Schweitzer said fellow Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, might have a chance in Montana, a state that has been won by Republicans in recent presidential elections.

“If she runs against Giuliani, maybe, because her and Giuliani have a similar opinion about gun control. And maybe Mitt Romney. He has both opinions on gun control,” Schweitzer said. “The Republican is going to win in Montana, unless again, it’s Giuliani.”

Otherwise, Republicans would have to be considered the odds-on favorite to carry Montana, the governor said.

Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to win Montana back in 1992 when independent candidate Ross Perot split the vote and made it a three-way race. Clinton did not carry the state in 1996, when it again flipped into the red column.

The state Republican Party said Democrats have no chance of winning Montana in 2008.

“I think it’s pretty clear that any Democratic candidates on the national level don’t stand a chance of competing in Montana. Their values are just too extreme,” said Montana GOP Executive Director Chris Wilcox.

Even if Democrats nominate someone who has little appeal in Montana, Schweitzer said he doesn’t think it would negatively affect candidates like him on the ballot.

“Montanans are able to discern between the national candidate and the statewide candidate,” he said. “They are independents in Montana. Most of the people in Montana have voted for a Democrat and a Republican somewhere along the line.”

Schweitzer did not say which presidential candidate he plans to support. The governor will be one of the so-called super delegates at the National Democratic Convention next summer, but said he is “uncommitted.”

He mentioned that he is friends with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and likes his experience, but says he doesn’t expect him to survive the Democratic primaries.

“I just don’t think Bill is going to be able to put enough dots together in time to win,” Schweitzer said.