MARYSVILLE, Mont. — A day spent with Montana's Brian Schweitzer makes it easy to understand why he's one of the most unusual and effective governors in the country.

At his ranch or wherever, the popular Democrat in a conservative state never misses a chance to leave a lasting impression.

He is proud of his ranch and the spring-fed fishing ponds 40 miles from Helena, with no cellphone service.

But he adds that he's well armed.

It's not often that a governor from a rural state is considered potential cabinet level or even presidential material. But the 57-year-old Schweitzer is creating that kind of dark horse buzz with a mastery of current affairs and a unique capacity for self-promotion.

Some Democrats hoped he would run for Montana's lone U.S. House seat this cycle, which he spurned. Others worry he could mount a primary challenge in 2014 to Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, with whom he has a prickly relationship. But he says neither fits.