Brian Schweitzer 2016 Is Not Just the Media's Fever Dream

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 7 2014 3:46 PM

Brian Schweitzer 2016 Is Not Just the Media's Fever Dream

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Quit asking me whether I'm considering running! I've already told you, the answer is yes!

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

If readers of this blog know anything about my biases, I hope it's that I hate early presidential race speculation with the heat of a thousand young suns. Most such speculation is cable TV time-wasting filler, focused on a boring, binary question. Will X candidate run for president? Yes, and he'll decide on his own time. When a possible candidate denies that he's interested, he is under no legal stricture preventing him from running anyway. See "Obama, Barack H." There's a world of difference between Maggie Haberman's "Hillary shadow campaign" story, and the phoned-in nonsense that lays out why such-and-such senator should probably run.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Fine. That said, I'm sort of offended to be included in this Michael Calderone piece. Titled "Brian Schweitzer Emerges as Media's Hillary Clinton Challenger of the Moment," it mentions that the former Montana governor did three TV interviews this week, and that "the media seems intent on finding someone who might challenge Clinton."

This gets the agency of this all wrong. Calderone writes that "Schweitzer has done his part to drum up media speculation over a 2016 run, announcing plans last month to visit all 99 counties in Iowa," which is the point. Should the media not notice when one of a party's national figures confirms that he wants to stump in Iowa? This isn't anything like the vaporous "progressives want Elizabeth Warren to run" theory,* based on the fact that one progressive PAC distributes pro-Warren merch and that Elizabeth Warren is popular. Schweitzer, who has been popular with liberal bloggers and activists since at least 2004, is telling reporters he's open to a 2016 run. We're not building a box and putting him in it. The dude brought his own box!

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If Calderone's point is that the media doesn't want a boring 2016, well, sure. There's lots of money to be lost if Clinton faces no primary challenge, no debates. If the point is that the press often approaches the 2016 question in a derp-laden way, sure, no question. The first three questions CNN presented Schweitzer with this week:

"As you mull this possibility of running, let me just begin with this. Do you pretty much take it for granted that Hillary Clinton will run?" 

"If you were to run against Hillary Clinton, my question would be, would you run to her left or would you offer yourself up as a more conservative choice for Democrats?"

"I hear you answering the question, Governor, on your record, but I asked you, would you be left or right of Hillary Clinton? Can you answer that one?"

Ugh. He's already said he wants to visit Iowa again and again and again! He's got a record that's left-wing on privacy, right-wing (generally speaking) on energy! Ask about that! Don't be dazzled by the possibility that the guy might run for president! There's a long, beautiful period in which possible candidates, rather than being asked to respond to an opponent's gaffe that day, rather than being clammed up by communications staffers, can be asked about basically anything.

*No disrespect to Noam Scheiber, whose story about "Hillary's Worst Nightmare"—Warren—was largely about Clinton's need to prevent the impression that she was too pro-Wall Street and unconcerned with inequality. Clinton has since moved to prevent this.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.