April 28 (Bloomberg) -- Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer said President Barack Obama has the advantage for re-election and should campaign on his economic record, not as a populist.
“If you went to Vegas today, it’d be 60-40 for Obama,” Schweitzer said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “The economy’s on the mend. That’s probably the most important thing.”
Schweitzer, a Democrat, said Obama should tout his accomplishments in working with the financial community to restore the economy and the automobile companies rather than campaign against the rich and powerful.
“He has demonstrated that he can work with banks. And, frankly, without the actions of Obama, we wouldn’t be making cars, and now General Motors is the No. 1 car manufacturer,” Schweitzer said. “You shouldn’t run from that kind of a record.”
He also predicted that Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat with a reputation as an economic populist, will win his re-election contest in November.
Schweitzer, 56, said he knows and likes the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, while questioning his political beliefs.
“I don’t know what he is,” Schweitzer said. “I can tell you he’s a nice man.”
He said Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, was the leader of a party that is more ideological today than under either President Ronald Reagan or then-Senator Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential nominee.
Today’s Republicans are “far right of the Reagan Republican Party,” Schweitzer said. “And I don’t think Goldwater would even recognize this Republican Party.”
Schweitzer, whose state would host a section of the Keystone XL pipeline bringing oil from Canada, said Republicans won’t succeed in making a campaign issue out of Obama’s failure to approve the project.
He said Obama can’t act until the states do, and Republican-led Nebraska has yet to grant a permit to TransCanada Corp. Obama in January rejected a permit, saying a deadline set by congressional Republicans didn’t provide enough time to study the project.
Pipeline Issue ‘Fabricated’
“As soon as there’s an actual route, then TransCanada is going to be able to apply to the State Department,” Schweitzer said. Republicans have “fabricated an issue in Washington, D.C., because Congress has nothing to do with this, and TransCanada doesn’t even have an active application before the State Department until they have a route across Nebraska.”
Asked about Chinese purchases of energy companies, Schweitzer said he’d welcome Chinese investment in his state.
A Russian company that owns “the only platinum and palladium in the Western Hemisphere” is employing Montanans, he said. “If foreign companies want to invest their money in Montana and hire Montanans to work there, I’m good with it.”
Schweitzer, a supporter of gun-owners’ rights, defended his state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows residents to use deadly force if they feel threatened. A similar law in Florida has been under scrutiny following the killing of an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin. The shooter, George Zimmerman, claimed self-defense under the law, which has been championed by a corporate-funded policy group, the American Legislative Exchange Council.
‘Standing Your Ground’
“Standing your ground is not chasing somebody down the street and shooting them,” Schweitzer said. The gun issue “is not just about hunting. The framers of our Constitution understood that every individual ought to have a right to carry a weapon, to defend themselves, not just from some other individual, but against tyranny.”
Montana last voted Democratic in a presidential election in 1992 when Bill Clinton carried the state, and Schweitzer said it will be difficult for Obama to win this time.
“If he wins 46 states, Montana will be one of them,” Schweitzer said. “If he only wins 42 states, then Montana won’t be one of them.”
Still, Tester should win re-election regardless of the outcome of the presidential race, Schweitzer said. Tester, one of the Democratic incumbents Republicans have targeted in their effort to win control of the Senate, is in a dead heat with his Republican opponent, U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg.
“People in Montana are vote-splitters,” Schweitzer said. “People like Jon Tester.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at firstname.lastname@example.org