Speakers at Democratic national conventions have a way of making it to the White House. Consider Barack Obama, whose 2004 keynote address thrilled the party faithful and Bill Clinton, whose 1988 speech nominating Mike Dukakis bored the gathering.
Another Democrat with convention experience is looking at a similar path. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer brought down the house in 2008, and there's lots of buzz he would be a natural presidential candidate in 2016.
He's acting coy about a bid, but he wasn't shy about rapping President Obama's Afghanistan policy or taking shots at the Tea Party when we rang him up.
On Obama's policies in Afghanistan, where a helicopter was shot down over the weekend, killing 30 American special forces, he told our Suzi Parker that it's time to get out. "You can't find anyone in D.C. that can answer why we are there," he said. The governor said that he echoes the sentiment of a 114-year-old Montana man he has become friends with who says, "They [Afghanistan] got nothing. No oil, no gold."
He also criticized the administration's Iran policies. "We have committed a vacuum for Iran to cause mischief," he said.
During a trip to the Middle East last fall, he said that Israeli leaders made the same argument. "They said the greatest threat was Iran," he said. "We created that monster. We wouldn't have the problems today if we hadn't gone into those wars," said Schweitzer, first elected in 2004 and reelected in 2008. He currently is one of the nation's most popular governors.
A Western leader in the Democratic Party, Schweitzer also blasted away at the Tea Party which has a strong presence in his state. He said congressional leaders acted like school children in the recent debt ceiling drama. "It's like this. There's a third grade teacher. There's eight new kids and they bring in 20 more. They all announce they aren't going to lunch. They stomp their feet and hold their breath. But they've been having lunch forever. In the end, what happens? They go to lunch. We knew how this was going to end."
Buzz about his potential 2016 presidential candidacy started last month when he spoke to the Arkansas Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, where other early hopefuls have stopped.
One attendee says Schweitzer has what it takes. "When considering a presidential candidate, voters want someone who they can relate to, someone like me, as well as gravitas—someone they can see on the world stage," says Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. "Often these are somewhat mutually exclusive. Schweitzer clearly has the former."
Schweitzer has been in demand since he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. And he's already hit popular primary spots like New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida.
Asked about 2016, he aw-shucks, "I'm a little-known governor of small rural state and I don't about any of that business."
But so was Bill Clinton, right? "He's one of a kind," Schweitzer says.
Some party officials expect him to make another address at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. next year. "It kind of worked out for me last time," he said, noting he isn't even sure he is going to the convention. "There may not be much space for me."
As for speeches, he doesn't write them down. He simply tells stories. "Politicians have these written comments to elicit an applause every three minutes," he said. "I don't want applause I have a story to tell. I'm trying to get to a point."