By BOB ANEZ/AP Political Writer
MISSOULA - Brian Schweitzer had just finished an hour-long debate with Republican rival Bob Brown and was walking down a Missoula street to another campaign stop.
But the Democrat was distracted and detoured by something that had nothing to do with his race for governor.
''Oh, there's a border collie,'' he said mostly to himself, after spying two women walking a pair of dogs on the tree-shrouded sidewalk.
''Hi, I'm Brian Schweitzer and I raise border collies,'' he offered. He talked dogs for several minutes before moving on, without one word of politics or his race for governor.
Schweitzer misses few chances to meet anyone, shake a hand or to talk a bit.
On this day in Missoula, the driver in a passing car stopped to shout praise for Schweitzer's debate performance at the UM Theater. Schweitzer walked into the middle of the street, and stuck his head in the car window for a chat.
Schweitzer likes to talk.
While the campaign is a means of seeking support for his candidacy, Schweitzer sees the stump as more than that. It's job training to be governor.
''I want to meet as many people as possible,'' he said. ''I want to learn as much about the diversity of business that we have in Montana as possible.
''A good governor needs to know personally all of the people that pull the rope in Montana,'' Schweitzer said. ''It's about building personal relationships. The more people you know, the more contacts that you make, the more likely that you're going to be able to pick up a phone and ask someone a question or find out something about what government should or shouldn't be doing.''
Schweitzer's gregarious, almost bubbly campaign style is in contrast to Brown's admittedly more low-key demeanor.
The antsy Schweitzer is seldom still. While making a pair of fund-raising calls on his cell phone, he paced up and down a street. Later, he gave a cell-phone interview to a Dillon radio station as he power-walked back and forth on a sidewalk.
But the high-strung Schweitzer also can become impatient at times. When an aide disappeared for a while after the debate, Schweitzer was irritated. ''Where's my driver?'' he demanded. ''We could go if I had a driver.''
His campaign day began with a visit to the nondescript headquarters for Technical Sourcing International, a firm that makes and distributes ingredients for dietary supplements.
''What do you need from the state?'' Schweitzer asked Larry Cole, company president. Help finding funding for clinical trials, Cole said.
''What could you do for me if you were governor?'' he asked Schweitzer in return.
''What I'd do as governor is be a deal closer,'' Schweitzer replied, saying he will personally intercede on behalf of businesses in search of investors. ''The governor is big medicine.''
Next up was a meeting with faculty and students at the University of Montana pharmacy school. About 50 people crowded into a classroom and Schweitzer was able to discuss one of his favorite subjects: high-priced prescription drugs.
He summarized his proposals to deal with the problem, including a plan for pressuring Congress to allow importation of U.S. drugs from Canadian suppliers.
All the time, Schweitzer's hands rapped the table to make his points. When particularly excited about an issue, his voice gets a notch higher.
The debate with Brown was approaching, but Schweitzer did no last-minute cramming. Instead, he went to a friend's house for a quick shower and change of clothes. He grudgingly replaced his jeans and plaid shirt with a suit, dress shirt and tie.
He rejected the first shirt he retrieved from his pickup truck because it required cufflinks and he doesn't own any. ''Too highfalutin,'' he said.
His pickup truck, home for a two-week campaign swing across Montana, was jammed. Clothes filled the back seat. The bed of the truck held boxes of Schweitzer note pads for volunteers, duffel bags with more clothes and a trio of large helium tanks.
The gas is Schweitzer's frequent companion, filling his bright yellow balloon that has become a familiar prop for his parade appearances. Painted to look like a light bulb to play up his motto, ''Plain talk, good ideas,'' the balloon would accompany him in the Montana State University homecoming parade the next day.
Schweitzer doesn't lack confidence and it shows. He's not worried if some may see him as a little too slick, too smooth-talking.
''I speak from my heart,'' he said. ''Folks can criticize me because I am a good communicator. But I know I have the ability of taking complex issues, boiling them down and explaining them in a way that everyone can understand in a very short time, and then putting together concrete proposals for resolving the problems. I'm good at that.''
Schweitzer reached the debate site 40 minutes early to check out the stage and lighting. When he learned TV cameras were in place, he pulled makeup from his pocket and applied it to his face before wandering through the growing crowd, shaking hands and talking.
Brown arrived just 15 minutes before the debate and greeted only a few in what would become a standing-room-only audience.
A state Democratic Party official handed Schweitzer a flier being distributed outside the theater by the Montana Republican Party. It chastised Schweitzer for rejecting Brown's challenge to release his income tax returns.
Schweitzer shrugged off the flier moments before taking the stage. ''I guess that's the way they play,'' he said. ''Rough stuff.''
After the debate, Schweitzer waded back into the audience while Brown remained on the stage. ''I won,'' he said later when asked his assessment.
He walked to the UM business school to address a handful of student supporters, telling them not to put too much emphasis on the face-offs between himself and Brown.
''A debate doesn't make an election,'' he said. ''It's just one of those bricks you put into a campaign.''
The day ended with a fund-raiser at the rural home of Cliff and Trish Larsen. As the sun began to set, Schweitzer stood munching hors d'oeuvres and, of course, talking.
He was ideally positioned, maybe by chance, maybe not. Directly above his head was a red-lettered banner over the Larsens' front door.
''Welcome Brian Schweitzer. Our next governor,'' it read