Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney make a decidedly odd couple.
Schweitzer is an unabashedly liberal Democrat who has been aggressively staking out ground to Hillary Clinton’s left as he considers a potential 2016 presidential bids. Meanwhile, Romney is one of the most high-profile representatives of the Republican establishment and one of the richest business people in politics.
None of this has stopped Schweitzer from developing a relationship with Romney. In fact, he’s joining some of the country’s biggest GOP names for Romney’s annual retreat this week in the ski resort town of Park City, Utah. According to the Los Angeles Times, Schweitzer is even set to speak to the group, which includes some of Romney’s most influential donors..
“Mitt called and asked me if I would come down. Of course Park City is easy for me to get to,” Schweitzer recalled to Business Insider Tuesday.
Schweitzer said he and Romney bonded during their international trips together when Schweitzer was governor of Montana and Romney was governor of Massachusetts. He also pointed to his 2012 speech at the Democratic National Convention where he offered some praise for Romney, who was in the midst of his GOP presidential bid.
“In that speech I said, ‘I know Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney and I traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan together.’ And when you travel together for several days, a week I suppose, you get to know them. What I said to 30,000 people in that audience, who were trying to elect someone other than Mitt Romney … was that Mitt Romney is a good family man and a loyal American,” said Schweitzer.
“We agreed on some stuff,” he added. “For example, he and I believe that there ought to be a year and a half of national service after finishing college.”
Of course, Schweitzer also had plenty of criticism for Romney in 2012.
“Mitt, you can’t Etch-A-Sketch away your record. Taxes: up. Cost of college: up. Debt: up. New business starts: down. Manufacturing: down. Median household income: down. Economic growth: down. If private equity Mitt Romney met Governor Mitt Romney, he’d do what he says he likes to do. He’d fire ‘um, and outsource the job!” he exclaimed to the DNC crowd, according to his prepared remarks.
This week’s Romney retreat, which begins Thursday and occurs just as Clinton is rolling out her national book tour, will feature a series of panels and speeches. According to the Times, the event will focus “on the themes of American competitiveness and America’s role as a leader around the world, as well as some political topics including the Republican Party’s deficit among women voters.” Along with Schweitzer, several potential Republican 2016 presidential hopefuls are slated to attend the retreat including; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
Schweitzer’s appearance at the Romney confab surprised some. The former Montana governor has in recent weeks been a frequent fixture on MSNBC, where he draws notice by being one of the few Democrats willing to openly critique the front-running Clinton as he accuses her of being too close to corporate money.
“Schweitzer (!) is speaking at Romney’s Utah donor retreat?” Dave Catanese, of U.S. News & World Report, wrote on Twitter.
But Schweitzer told Business Insider that reaching across the partisan aisle is simply what leaders are supposed to do.
“If you want to change the world, if you want to change this country,” he said, “you have to be able to talk to people who don’t agree with.”
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