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In a brusque, five-minute conversation woven with one-sentence answers, Schweitzer delved into journalism ethics and his training as a soil scientist. As for the Senate race, he only confirmed he was “maybe looking at it.”
The gregarious Democrat with a history of good relations with the press insisted that it didn’t matter what he said, since reporters write what they want to anyway. After initiating the call, he ended it by boasting that he’d given the reporter “almost nothing.”
Victory would transport Schweitzer straight into the bowels of a town for which he offered only negative reviews after visiting last week. It would also place this one-man army into a frustratingly slow-paced legislative body that can be a difficult transition for former governors.
Schweitzer said his kind of Georgetown is the picturesque fishing lake by that name in Big Sky country — not the elite retail and residential hub on Washington’s west side.
“That place sucks,” he said in the phone interview, referring to D.C. “Come on, I don’t want that smell on me. ... I’m where everyone wishes they could be.”
If he does indeed run, one Montana Democrat would say only that there are fences that could be mended. Others noted that despite his advantages of vast support among independents and brand loyalty, Schweitzer would likely need the help of the state party’s leaders if a top-tier Republican candidate, for example freshman Rep. Steve Daines, jumps in.
A Daines spokeswoman said the congressman is still considering his options. But he’s also no doubt waiting to see what Schweitzer decides.
Schweitzer said he has “not really” spoken about the Senate race with advisers of either sitting senator. He ran for Senate once before, losing to Republican Sen. Conrad Burns in a close 2000 race. Baucus is retiring next year after six terms and is credited with building the state party into the legitimate operation that it is today.
Tester defeated Burns in 2006, and he won re-election last year despite a double-digit loss in the state for President Barack Obama.
“I’ve run a few campaigns,” Schweitzer said. “The last time I ran statewide, I got 65.5 percent and my opponent got 32 percent. So I probably could do something like that again. I don’t know.”
Montana’s Lee Enterprises newspapers reported Sunday that Schweitzer was preparing to run and had been in D.C. to meet with potential supporters. Asked Monday about the jaunt, Schweitzer said the names of DSCC Chairman Michael Bennet and Executive Director Guy Cecil “don’t really ring a bell.” He “might’ve” spoken with some senators while in town, “but it wasn’t memorable.”
“Oh, I was having a look around to see how bad it would be to live there,” Schweitzer said. “And I concluded it was really bad to live there — traffic is bad, weather is worse. Most of the people you talk to are frauds. You know.”
The charm offensive continues.
(Read more excerpts from the Roll Call conversation with Schweitzer here.)