Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Schweitzer the Republican

Here's the script for the latest Schweitzer-Bohlinger ad:
Schweitzer: I’m Brian Schweitzer.

Bohlinger: “And I’m John Bohlinger.”

Schweitzer: Four years ago, when I chose John, a Republican, to be my Lieutenant Governor, I took some heat from a few Democrats.

Bohlinger: And I know some Republicans who weren’t happy either.

Schweitzer: But working across party lines was more important to us. We’ve created the largest budget surplus and the most tax relief in state history, we’ve helped create over 50,000 new jobs, and our economy is one of the fastest growing in the country. Did I leave anything out?”

Bohlinger: Just that you couldn’t have done it without me.

Pretty clever. Schweitzer has been working this line for four years, and Republicans still haven't found a way to react except by sounding pissy about it. But voters' desire for bipartisan consensus is real, and the GOP ignores it at its peril.

UPDATE: Montana Headlines responds. I don't disagree at all with his analysis of the situation, but I doubt for a couple of reasons that the solution he suggests (demonstrating where the governor has rejected compromise) will be effective.

One is that there just aren't a lot of hard lines of difference between the two parties. Both believe in economic development, some environmental protection, balanced budgets and reasonable taxes. They disagree mostly about where to draw the line, not about whether a line should be drawn. So if voters mostly like the way things stand, then they probably will vote to keep things they way they are.

The other is that most people, even political junkies, just don't follow day-to-day legislative operations that closely. So trying to educate the masses about cases where Republicans sought compromise and Schweitzer rejected it is likely to be a futile endeavor, easily glossed over by the political campaigns. Where the GOP has to fight back is on symbols -- and Schweitzer seems to have that end of the game pretty well locked up.

UPDATE 2: In comments, Montana Headlines observes that I seem to be calling on Montana Republicans to engage in the same sort of battles over symbols that I have criticized in the McCain campaign. He's right about that, I think, or at least that thought occurred to me while I was delivering papers along Shiloh Road yesterday.

But first, a point of disagreement. Montana Headlines suggests that I think voters don't really care about bipartisanship, just about the appearance of it. No, I don't mean that at all. Voters really do care about bipartisanship, but they are unlikely to be persuaded by going through the minutiae of past legislative battles that Republicans are better at it than Democrats.

So what do I think Republicans should do? Any Republicans who care about my opinion are welcome to send large checks to The Billings Outpost Relief Fund (1833 Grand Ave., Billings MT 59102), but here's the freeware version:

1. In legislative races, Republicans should take it on a case-by-case basis. They should point out that Republicans are the go-to guys on low taxes and energy development, and they can try to persuade voters that the GOP's years of fiscal prudence led to the relative prosperity Montana enjoys now. They should (generally) avoid social issues, ignore the national party and never, ever say a bad word about John Bohlinger.

2. In the governor's race, Roy Brown should campaign hard, run a clean race, build up as much favorable name recognition as possible and hope for better luck in 2012. Brown's a good man, and probably would be a good governor, but the odds this year are awfully long.

3. If Brown, as my advisee, says that's not good enough -- he wants to win now -- then my advice would have to be that he go immediately, heavily and profoundly negative. If he can find a picture of Schweitzer giving somebody a haircut, play it big. If Schweitzer has ever tortured a kitten, beaten his wife or cheated a business partner, go for it. If Bohlinger shoplifts bow ties, make an example of him.

I don't think that strategy would be likely to work, and it might very well taint Brown enough to damage any future campaigns. But I think it's the only thing that might work.


Anonymous said...

I would argue that there are NO other politicos in Montana other than Schweitzer and Bohlinger who could have pulled off such a feat. These guys are unique. And they so far outclass roy brown and his sidekick that it's gonna be REALY yougly come election time. Hey, no guts no glory! Schweitzer and Bohlinger have plenty of guts. They'll get the glory once again. Heck, they deserve it!

Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

Anonymous said...

50,000 new jobs.

Does that mean there has been an increase in population of 50,000 people in the last 4 years?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Symbols, huh? OK. Let's see. On the Repubbie side, judy mars, garbage lady, no education what-so-ever, and an admitted corporate lapdog, laughing stock and embarrassment to the state. Now SHE was a potent symbol alright! Oh, and then there was marky raicot, Enron boy and Mr. Dereg himself! ANOTHER very important symbol! Sorry, but I don't happen to think it's about symbols at all. Montanans do NOT have amnesia. We remember quite well the disastrous Repubbie regimes of the recent past. We are reminded each time we pay our utility bills. We don't wanna go there again! Roy is right outta that mold. He's got oil on the brain, and there's just a wee bit more to leadership than hoping for a gusher!


Chuck Rightmire said...

Yeah, but the GOP rejected compromise when it really mattered so what are they complaining about?

Montana Headlines said...

So what it appears that you are saying is not that voters actually desire bipartisan consensus but rather that they desire the symbols and appearance of bipartisan consensus, and that voters will not find mere facts to be persuasive in overcoming the governor's carefully crafted symbolic image of bipartisanship.

If Republicans believe that where they draw the line on major issues is better for Montana than where Democrats draw it, then it sounds like the only approach open to them will be a counterattack on the basis of symbols and imagery.

In other words, an ad campaign similar to the one McCain is using to take apart the symbols of Sen. Obama's campaign.

The GOP must, of course, be able to articulate their own positive vision as well, using effective symbols and creating an attractive public image. But just as Democrats have succeeded in their campaign to paint Republicans in the worst light here in Montana, Republicans will have to do the same if they don't want to be forced deeper into the political wilderness.

Ed Kemmick said...

Larry, don't just tell us. Send the governor a mash note!

Anonymous said...

Well, Ed, please prove me wrong! Float the names of just TWO other politicos in Montana who could have pulled this off. I dare you. Schweitzer is the FIRST politician in the entire country that I know of that crossed party lines for a running mate. For that, Schweitzer is to be commended. It's called leadership, Ed. And regardless of what you think of Schweitzer, it's a refreshing change. Again, what are those names, and why didn't it happen before? I await your reply.


Chuck Rightmire said...

One problem is that Montana Republicans have never had a positive image for themselves or for the state. It is always a negative one from anti-taxing to insisting we have a bad business image to a belief we can destroy our natural world and still remain Montana.

Anonymous said...

"Schweitzer is the FIRST politician in the entire country that I know of that crossed party lines for a running mate."

Larry, may I reply for Ed on this?

Didn't Abraham Lincoln (Republican) pick Andrew Johnson (Democrat) as his running mate in 1864?

Maybe the Honorable Governor isn't the first to have crossed party lines for a running mate.

Anonymous said...

Enough of this ad and the four year joke of a bi-partisan state house already. While it was a briliant political move that has gone unchecked by the news organizations in this state to pick Bohlinger as his lt. governor after he was declared the winnner of awrite-in essay contest can we stop pretending that party lines were in any way crossed. It is not like chose Dan McGee or Corey Stapleton to be his running mate. Picking John Bohlinger was nothing more than a stunt that will give this administration eight years of "bi-partisan headlines and tv news story tags that read something like, "and GOP Lt. Governor Bohlinger agrees with the democratic Governor." If this is truly a bi-partisan administration please give me a single example of Mr. Bohlinger being the GOP point man within the capitol. Better yet provide one example of him disagreeing with the Governor. John Bohlinger is nothing more than as he said in his own words prior to the Governor's 2007 State of the State Address, "Brian's biggest cheerleader. He is not a republican voice within a bi-partisan administration. Can we all agree on that?

Anonymous said...

The Governor has done a great job of Moving Montana forward. We should all be proud of his efforts to make Montana a better place-and that includes working with Republicans.