In Montana, the Clintons are better coached

by Pete Talbot

In Montana, the Clinton campaign coaches are doing a better job than Obama’s. This is not an endorsement, just a fact.

There are a number of reasons for this and I’ll mention a couple here.

1) Messaging. Now, I can’t remember hearing a more dynamic speaker than Sen. Obama (Bill Clinton is close) but when it comes to Montana-centric prose, both Clintons have Obama beat. Check this Bill Clinton snippet out, as reported by the Missoulian:

“When I was president in 1995, the University of Montana won a national football championship,” Clinton said. “And I called the team to congratulate them. And I thought you might be interested to know or remember that one was won with a fourth-quarter comeback engineered by a quarterback named Dave Dickenson – and the game was won in West Virginia.

“Hillary won last night in West Virginia by 41 points,” he said to a cheering crowd. “I think it’s worth noting that no one has won the White House without carrying West Virginia since 1916.”

Mention the Montana Grizzly football championship and Dave Dickenson to a Missoula crowd and then tie in the West Virginia primary win — sheer genius.

There’s also this account of Bill Clinton in Billings from Dave Crisp at the Billings Blog:

“The guy is a master. He started by talking about his last visit to Billings, including the name of the horse he rode when he was here (“Phirepower”) and his visit to the Kit-Kat Cafe. He even knew that the Kit-Kat was no longer around — a tribute to great staff work, or a great memory, or both.”

Obama’s main reference to Montana was that he might try a little fly fishing. Not a whole lot of research done there. Hillary, on the other hand, spoke of Jeanette Rankin and acknowledged current Montana women in politics, like Carol Williams and Dorothy Bradley and Carol Juneau, etc., etc.

And here’s an email I just received from the Clinton campaign:

“Team Hillary will pass out stickers and candy along the Bucking Horse Sale Parade in Miles City this weekend. All participants will go home with limited edition “Team Hillary” courtesy of the campaign.”

Now I don’t think “Team Hillary” actually includes Hillary but still, the Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City? Man, you can’t get much more Montanan than that.

2) The Williams family. There are few Democratic families in Montana that garner as much respect or are as well connected. Pat, Carol and daughters have all been active in the Clinton campaign, and they’ve brought a number of other influential folks into the fold. I have a feeling that the Williams’ insights into campaigning in Montana (and the insights from people that they brought to the campaign) have been picked up by the Clinton camp.

Is Barack slacking in Big Sky Country? Not really. Obama is starting to campaign as if the nomination is already his, which is good strategy.

The stakes are definitely higher for Ms. Clinton. There is no recent polling in Montana for the candidates but the pundits are giving the nod to Obama, so a win for Clinton would be huge. Our June 3 primary will tell us if Hillary’s messaging efforts pay off.

UPDATE: The above piece was edited substantially, by me, from the original post. The original headline was, “In Montana, Clinton is better organized” and the first sentence read, “Hillary Clinton’s field organization in Montana is doing a better job than Sen. Barack Obama’s.”

Well, I took some hits on this, and rightfully so — although I don’t agree with all the criticism and stand by my premise that the folks prepping the Clintons are doing a better job. But it was unfair of me to paint the entire Obama field organization as being behind the curve. I appreciate everyone’s comments.

  1. This is, with all due respect, somewhat of a misinformed analysis. You’re saying Clinton has the best field operation, and then use examples of her strengths in areas of a campaign totally unrelated to field to prove your point.

    The Williams’ –bless their hearts– won’t make the thousands of phone calls needed, recruit all the volunteers to make them, or knock the same number of doors with even more volunteers. Nor will they return to all those same volunteers during the GOTV effort and deliver them to the polls to vote. I think Pat and Carol are wonderful people and do alot to support the party, but there’s only two of them, and they’re just humans, not superheroes as you may beleive. You need a massive and disciplined organization to do this, and your post doesn’t really illustrate the locations, staff members, job descriptions, or experiences these folks have (are they seasoned soldiers from targetted campaigns, or newbie hacks looking for a job?), nor do you comment on their field directors’ past experiences and the types of machines they’re likely to assemble.

    Showing the types and numbers of online communication won’t help explain this either. You may think Hillary has a great online operation, or has great internal support from key fundraisers like the Williams’ in a base district, but that doesn’t translate into a viable field machine that will id the voters, persuade them, and deliver them to the polls.

  2. JC

    It’s nice to hear that Bill’s down-home approach is convincing in the field. There’s no doubt he’s probably the best campaigner of his generation.

    I’d quibble with Hilary’s invoking of Jeannette Rankin, however, as being a bit… disingenuous. Rankin was, after all, the only person to vote against going to war in both World Wars.

    Clinton would do well to study Rankin if she is going to use her in her répertoire to generate a rapport with a crowd.

    As people know who Dickinson is, they surely know Rankin’s claim to fame, other than being the first woman elected to Congress, is her pacifist nature, and anti-war votes.

    “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war. I vote no.” — Jeannette Rankin, Congressional speech, 1917

    Hopefully Clinton’s operations in Montana will help the Democratic party win the state for the presidency.

  3. Yeah, I’d argue this is misinformed, too. Who’s more present in the news and everyday lives of Missoulians, Carol Williams or John Engen? With all due respect to Williams, her office, and accomplishments, she’s just not much a presence in Missoula, as far as I can tell. The only time I’ve seen her here in the past ten+ years is at the side of a Clinton or pitching Clinton to party stalwarts.

    Also, I’m getting the reverse amt of emails: pounded by Obama emails, recieve a Clinton email about once a week. Remember, one of us went to an exclusive fundraiser and the other didn’t.

    As for boots on the ground, I don’t think there’s much contest here. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an Obama volunteer, sign, bumper sticker, or voter registration clipboard. Clinton? Not so much.

  4. goof houlihan

    BHO has surely spent the coin, no doubt about it. Local television is obnoxious with his paid for “message”, which so far is nothing more than “I’ll give you money if you vote for me”. The whole “he will bring us together” ignores the fact that many of us not only won’t vote for him, but won’t vote for anyone whose yard sign shares a yard with his.

    HC has done it one voter at a time and her policy wonk discussion of the issues is interesting, different, and worth listening to. I think Hilary voters are in hiding, ostracized, criticized and vilified by the BHO lemmings.

  5. petetalbot

    As you can see, yourmommasbestcookinrighthere, I’ve edited the post, in part because of your comment.

    I still think the Williams bring a lot more to the table than just themselves: lists, volunteers, money … and not just Carol, Pat and daughter Whitney bring extensive experience to the campaign.

    Which is my point here to you, too, Jay. The Engen endorsement would be nice to have but I’d take the Williams’ statewide savvy over that any day.

    You’re right about the emails, though. I’ve heard the same from others about being inundated by Obama emails, so I edited out that portion — that’s the beautiful thing about the blogs, as opposed to the dead tree format.

    But Jay, my discerning eye sees almost as many Hillary signs out there as Obama signs — which surprises me here in Missoula. (By the way, what are you doing swinging dead cats around.)

  6. Pete, I am not sure that I would edit a post unless it had a false ‘fact’ in it, thats what comments, ‘updates’ and follow up posts are for.

    I think that this is an interesting point you have made, and there is something to it. I would argue the point though that anecdotal dialog is just that. Makes you feel fuzzy.

    On the yard sign issue, I am an avid yard sign pollster. I have only seen one ‘Hillary’ yard sign in all of Helena and many many Obama yard signs. I have seen more McCain signs than Hillary. The same goes for bumper stickers. Also, I am a precinct captain for my neigborhood and I can tell you that the Helena organizer is awesome. He calls me twice a week to see how things are going and to make sure I have everything I need. That is organization.

    Also, I see Obama commercials on all the time. You can make the argument that that is just money, but I say that it really speaks the language of Montana: Obama has ran his candidacy thriftily. He has opened field offices here because he still has the money to do so. Why? He hasn’t squandered it. *That* is the real Montana centric prose and will play much better than remembering the name of a diner.

  7. I still think the Williams bring a lot more to the table than just themselves: lists, volunteers, money … and not just Carol, Pat and daughter Whitney bring extensive experience to the campaign.

    Like I said, there’s no doubt about that — but I’ve seen little effect beyond the political class.

    Which is what Goof is talking about, when he says Clinton is winning the “voters” one by one, as opposed to the “lemmings” — you know, the rest of us, the people.

    BTW, goof…BHO? Tsk, tsk. That’s Eric Coobs territory. I expect more from you than to stoop to veiled racism.

  8. Illiott

    Did I miss something, or did Pete Talbott go back and edit his post because the MOMMASBESTCOOKIN person called him out?

    That’s really kind of sketchy, and a little wierd to be honest. Instead of responding in you comment, you actually went back and altered the original post so it seemed more credible? This is the kind of half-assed idiot hackery that gives bloggers a bad name and demeans our credibility as political commentators.

    I guess I just wanted to point that out because I think it’s bogus.

  9. petetalbot

    No one gave me ‘The Blogger Handbook’ when I started contributing to this site but from some of the comments above, it is apparently bad form to go back in and edit an original post. In my update, I did try to show what I had changed from the original, and why.

    Back in the old days of multiple-edition newspapers, stories could be edited from one edition to the next as new information or facts became available. That’s all I was trying to do here, as I reviewed comments from others and did a little more research.

    Again, one of the beauties of blogging, at least for me, is the ability to edit on the fly. In the future, however, I’ll guess I’ll keep additions or corrections out of the main post and relegate them to the comments section. Hope that makes the readers happy.

    Pete “half-assed idiot hack” Talbot

  10. Well, I don’t think it is that big of a deal. It just makes it difficult to follow comments when the body has changed.

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