by Pete Talbot

The polls close in South Dakota at 7 p.m. (that’s 6 p.m. Montana time). Our polls stay open until 8 p.m.

Montana has the final word in this country’s presidential primary election season.

Montana is rivaled only by Iowa and New Hampshire in the number of visits by presidential candidates and their retinues. Are we becoming jaded?

Overheard at the Missoula Club Saturday night:

“Who’s that guy down at the end of the bar?”

“Oh, that’s just Bill Clinton.”

Not really but you get my drift. In all seriousness, this is Montana politics at its best. Bill really was at the Club, as reported in the Missoulian, and it was good old-fashioned Butte politics — he bought a round of shots for the bar.*

Montana, which is usually considered a wasteland on the national political scene, will be sending a final message to the rest of the country: here’s who we think will be the best (Democratic) presidential candidate.

If Obama beats Clinton by 20 points, as predicted, it sort of puts the race issue to bed. I mean, it doesn’t get much whiter than Montana.

(The exception to this is the Montana Indian vote and both campaigns have worked Indian Country. Obama has the edge with Indian leadership, but Clinton has some strong support from a few influential, elected Indian officials. Reservation numbers will be worth watching.)

If Hillary can make a run at Barack’s lead and pick up more delegates than expected here in Montana, she’ll have additional ammunition to keep her plugging away right up to the convention.

All eyes are on Montana.

State and county

There are some great Democratic primary contests in Montana and Missoula. Statewide, there’s a race for Montana’s lone U.S. House of Representatives seat, a contested governors race, a three-way attorney general race, four-way superintendent of public instruction contest, a PSC race in Eastern Montana, and a herd of legislative contests.

In Missoula of interest: the Rosie Buzzas/Ron Erickson Senate District 47 race, the House District 100 primary between Gary Brown and Willis Curdy, and a couple of races where sitting legislators are being challenged (incumbent Michele Reinhart v. James Boone in HD 97, and incumbent Tim Furey against Dustin Hankinson in HD 91).

And we have an important Missoula County Commissioner race with three in the Democratic primary: Dennis Daneke, Jeff Patterson and Michele Landquist.

Out of the area but close to our hearts is the Helena primary between Christine Kaufmann and Hal Jacobson (SD 41), and Paul Clark and Judy Stang (SD 7, which is made up of a huge slice of Western Montana).

We’ll be there

I, and I hope, others will be posting returns and comments on election night. There are events planned for Obama (the Wilma Theater), a Forward Montana gig at the Badlander, election returns at the courthouse, happenings at the Union and Missoula Clubs, and the Clinton camp is doing something at the Shack.  Not sure where the Republicans are gathering (yawn).

New voters will be turning out in huge numbers. On the coattails of the presidential primary, and with the incumbent governor and senator looking unbeatable, and with many strong down-ticket races — it doesn’t get much better than this for Montana Democrats.

*(A correction on Page Two of Tuesday’s Missoulian has the Mo’ Club picking up the round, not Bill Clinton. Darn.)




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