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Edwards and Schweitzer: Perfect Together?

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) will be introduced by Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer later today at a fundraiser in Missoula, according to his campaign.

Sources on both sides were careful to note that Schweitzer's presence at the "Small Change for Big Change" event, which is to be held as the University of Montana, did not constitute an endorsement. But, that won't stop the Edwards campaign from using today's event to bolster the argument that Edwards is a candidate who has real appeal in red states.

In an interview today, Schweitzer said that Edwards "says out loud what I say every day here" when it comes to the overpowering influence of lobbyists on the legislative processs. "Lobbyists are not the fourth branch of government," said Schweitzer. "They don't run the government, but they act like they do."

Schweitzer has made a living politically on that sort of prairie populism -- "I don't allow them to buy me their thick steaks nor do I drink their old whiskey," Schweitzer said of lobbyists -- and it is that same strain that Edwards is hoping to capitalize on as he runs for president in 2008 against titans like Sens. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.).

Schweitzer added that Edwards' willingness to come to Montana -- a state ignored every four years by presidential candidates -- also appealed to him.

Edwards' campaign has worked hard over the past few months to sell their candidate as the only one of the Big 3 who can broaden the electoral map in 2008. Montana is likely beyond the grasp of any of the presidential candidates -- Bush won it by 20 points in 2004 and 25 points in 2000. But Edwards would love to have Schweitzer on board to show that red state leaders believe that the former North Carolina senator is the best choice to expand the electoral playing field.

"The need [for] big change doesn't only exist in blue states," said Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz. "Democrats from across the country understand that the system in Washington is broken, and rigged against working Americans."

But, as quickly as Schweitzer praised Edwards, he noted that his endorsement of any candidate is unlikely and, if he did throw his backing behind anyone, it would be Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.). "Bill Richardson and I are friends," said Schweitzer.

As we have written before, Schweitzer is a potentially influential endorser in this race. Schweitzer's victory in 2004 was seen as a seminal moment in Democrats' re-emergence in the West -- the new, new battleground nationally -- and is already being mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate.

Governors, generally, have been reluctant to get involved on behalf of an individual candidate -- a stark contrast to the situation eight years ago, when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush was able to win over a majority of Republican governors, a strategy that cemented him as the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination.

Here's a look at the governors endorsement of the candidates to date:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)
Gov. Eliot Spitzer (N.Y.)
Gov. Jon Corzine (N.J.)
Gov. Mike Beebe (Ark.)
Gov. Martin O'Malley (Md.)

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
Gov. Tim Kaine (Va.)
Gov. Rod Blagojevich (Ill.)

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.)
Gov. Matt Blunt (Mo.)
Gov. Don Carcieri (R.I.)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (Utah)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Minn.)
Gov. Mitch Daniels (Ind.)

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.)
Gov. Mike Rounds (S.D.)

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 4, 2007; 1:08 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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