I have been saying it for months now, Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party. And now that he has clinched a victory in pledged delegates the remaining contests in Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana are nothing more than a formality.
Of those three contests none appear to have a chance to play a roll in the General Election this fall; at least at first glance. Puerto Rico can’t even vote in the General, although Hillary will probably claim it can if she wins the primary there, and South Dakota hasn’t gone Blue since 1964 when Lyndon Johnson destroyed Barry Goldwater.
On the surface Montana seems like an impossible pick-up for the Democrats as well, but it may be the one remaining contest to watch for signs of a potential General Election upset in Barack Obama’s favor come November.
A poll done by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. out of Washington D.C. taken May 19th through the 21st shows John McCain with a solid 8-point lead in Big Sky Country, 47-39.
A closer look at the Mason-Dixon poll however reveals trouble for McCain. For starters 14% of the Montana electorate is undecided, plus there’s a 4% margin of error, that makes the now famous “Keith Number” 18%.
14% undecided is a huge number in one of the reddest of the red states.
In 2000 and 2004 Bush won by 25% and 20% respectively.
As a side note Bill Clinton was able to win The Treasure State in 1992...with the help of a whopping 26% of the vote going to Ross Perot, undoubtedly costing Bush Montana’s three Electoral Votes.
But back to the topic at hand, there should be no question as to whether or not John McCain should win in Montana on November 4th, but the Mountain West seems to be buying what Barack is selling; change. And in order to solidify a victory in Montana, John McCain is going to have to make sure that those 14% of undecided voters don’t break towards Obama. That is a pretty tall order considering that everywhere Obama spends time his numbers improve.
As people get to know Barack Obama they like him more and more. Montana is no different. So if Obama and his campaign decide to make Big Sky Country a battleground it will be.
What should be of even further concern to John McCain is that the Mason-Dixon poll left out one of Obama’s core constituencies, first time voters.
In the May 19-21 poll Mason-Dixon surveyed 625 registered voters who all said they regularly vote in Montana elections. As we have seen time after time throughout this campaign Barack Obama does exceedingly well with first time voters.
Sen. Obama inspires people who have never voted in their lives to get out and cast a ballot for hope and change.
So come June 3rd, when watching the returns from South Dakota and Montana, the real concern is not who will win. The same Mason-Dixon poll mentioned above also has Sen. Obama beating Sen. Clinton on June 3rd by a 52% - 35% margin.
On top of that, Clinton has a 29% favorable rating compared to a whopping 50% unfavorable rating. Those numbers give her almost no room to improve.
The real number to watch next Tuesday night is not the number that determines who wins or loses, it is the turnout, particularly among young and new voters.
If that number is higher than expected, and the percentage of young voters is higher than expected then watch out John McCain, you could be in for a surprise in Montana this November. And that’s before we have even considered Brian Schweitzer as Obama’s running mate.