by Pete Talbot

Dear President-elect Obama,

I’m sorry we couldn’t deliver our three electoral votes to you. You worked hard for them. You visited the state and talked western policy. You set up offices and hired staff and had the best ground game I’ve ever seen. John McCain never set foot in Montana.

You came close — only 12,136 votes separated you from McCain. And compared to the 20-point win that George W. Bush had here four years ago, what you did was miraculous.

I’m still scratching my head, though. In almost every other statewide category, Montana went blue: senator, governor and all four tier b’s (unseating the sole Republican incumbent with a new secretary of state). And two-out-of-three newly-elected PSC commissioners are Democrats.

Another confusing example is Gallatin County. I hoped for better numbers from there. It did, after all, almost go for Sen. Tester in 2006 (Burns won by less than 200 votes). But this year, Obama goes down by over 1400. Perhaps Barack should work on a flattop haircut for 2012. Even Gallatin County voted for you, by a 1609 vote margin.

I don’t believe race was a factor. I think most Montanans who voted for McCain did so because of issues like taxes or defense or the “experience” card or some ingrained conservative Christian belief.

And guns played a role. Even though you came to Montana and assured us you wouldn’t take away our guns, ugly rumors persisted. Next time through, make sure to get that ubiquitous firearm photo op.

We wish you well, Mr. President, and may you bring people together to help solve the numerous problems facing our country. Godspeed.

An unpleasant aside

After saying race wasn’t a factor, well, you still run into this: On my way to Bozeman on election day, I stopped by the Cardwell Store, there between Whitehall and Three Forks, for a cup of coffee and a Slim Jim. Two good-old-boys were at the counter and one said, “I better go vote.” To which the other said, “Yeah, I’d hate to see this election get nigger-rigged.”

I’m not even sure what he meant but I left my merchandise on the counter and walked out. Came up with some really choice things I should have said about five miles down the road.

Now I’m sure that everyone in Cardwell isn’t an ignorant racist pig but I won’t be stopping by again, ever, to find out.

It’s a sad anecdote, but there’s one good thing about it; the guy was old and will soon be dead.

I love Missoula

On a more upbeat note: Missoula delivers. One or two flies in the ointment: that HD-100 race where Willis Curdy is losing by a measly 33 votes to Republican incumbent Bill Nooney (provisional votes still being counted, final results Monday). But that’s democracy; you can choose the anti-education, anti-senior, anti-young person, anti-environment candidate if you want.

Same with SD-7, which has a little bit of Missoula County in it and where veteran lawmaker Paul Clark lost to anti-government zealot Greg Hinkle.

Otherwise it was a sweep: Gutsche over Mood for the PSC, the improbable county commissioner outcome, nine-out-of-ten state reps, and two state senators.

The Emergency Operations Center Bond going down wasn’t really a surprise. With property taxes in the mail and it being a slow economy and all, folks are tightening their belts. In better times, I think it would have passed. It also wasn’t one of the strongest campaigns I’ve seen run in this town.

Ravalli County blues

Is it too harsh to recommend a toll booth at the Ravalli/Missoula County line? Those Bitterrooters should pay extra to come and visit an eclectic town that values education and planning. Maybe we could funnel the toll revenue into preserving Ravalli County open space, while there’s still some left.

I know that there are progressives in Ravalli County but time-and-time again their issues and candidates get hammered.

Both West Fork Blues and Rebecca have excellent comments on the results in the Bitterroot.

Statewide conundrum

Despite Democratic wins in most of the big-ticket races, the Montana House is tied and the senate losses seats (R’s 27-D’s 23). Throw in a Democratic governor and I smell gridlock. But maybe not, lots of talk from candidates of all stripes wanting to “reach across the aisle.” We’ll see.

I, like Jay and others, have to wonder about this split ticket voting. How can our Democratic governor win by an almost two-to-one margin and still have the Montana Senate lose its Democratic majority? Did the Republican Party focus on legislative races because it knew most of the others were hopeless? Any insights?

We’re a two party country

Third parties didn’t fare well. Libertarian Don Eisenmenger received about 7 percent in the OPI race, which I believe was the party’s best showing. Presidential candidate Bob Barr got 0.3 percent. In the U.S. House race, perennial candidate Mike Fellows got 3 percent, and Stan Jones got 2 percent in the governor’s race.

For Constitution Party candidates, Ron Paul got slightly over 2 percent in the presidential race. That party’s best showing was in Missoula County with Kandi Matthew-Jenkins getting a little better than one-third of the votes against Cliff Larson in SD 50 (there was no Republican in that contest). And in the SOS race, Sieglinde Sharbono received around 3.5 percent.

Nadar’s Independent ticket garnered slightly less than 1 percent.

And finally

Who ever thought we’d have a president with a name like Barack Obama? It pales in comparison, though, to the candidate from HD-15 — my favorite name on the ballot — Frosty Boss Calf Ribs. I’ve met some of the Boss Calf Ribs clan up in the Browning area but don’t know Frosty, who was unopposed. Kind of makes our Anglo names like John Smith and Jane Doe seem rather lame. Congratulations, Frosty.

  1. klemz

    “Those Bitterrooters should pay extra to come and visit an eclectic town that values education and planning.”

    I like your write-up Pete, but comments like this make it harder for urban transplants to get over the fact that Missoula is a faint mimicry, at best, of cities like Portland, and about as diverse as a ghetto kindergarten crayon box.

    It’s the beauty of Montana that makes the difference, and that valley is more beautiful than this one, even if it’s not as cosmopolitan.

  2. petetalbot

    Yeah, but that beauty is going fast, klemz, and they don’t seem to care. I think I’ve used the phrase “Paradise Lost” more than once.

    As far as my “eclectic” comment, well, we certainly aren’t that racially diverse up here in Missoula but we’ve got a lot of interesting characters hanging around.

    I guess what I meant to say was — Ravalli residents will come to Missoula for a variety of things: A Griz game (there’s that education component) and then vote against the six mill levy. They like our downtown (business improvement districts) and then vote against any kind of taxes. Our city is nice, in part, because we’ve tried to do some planning — which the majority of Bitterrooters are opposed to.

    The things that make Missoula a nice place to visit are the things that Ravalli County rails against. I’m serious about the toll booth. Might get some of folks thinking. (There’d be no toll for carpoolers.)

  3. klemz

    Word. You know what you meant to say. I just don’t like it when Missoulians drift toward applying the podunk tag, because its all relative.

  4. I don’t know Pete – Ravalli County residents work here. For many, the choice was made to commute because they couldn’t afford to live here. In some cases, the house they purchased was cheaper than anything available here, in some cases the house they purchased was more house for the $ than what they could have purchased here.

    Of course there are others that simply wanted to live outside of Missoula for whatever reason.

    But that being said, while their cars – and it should be noted that we’ve got people commuting in from Powell and Mineral and Granite County, I know that for sure – clog our roads, they are spending plenty of $ when they are here. None of those counties offer the shopping that people have here – so they’re certainly putting money into our economy.

    It certainly does make a case for why the state gas tax revenues should be distributed more commensurate with the number of cars driven in the county that is selling them gasoline.

    I’m almost betting that Gallatin County – which is also a job center, while house prices are pretty huge and the outlying counties home prices much cheaper – feels the same way.

  5. Megan

    “How can our Democratic governor win by an almost two-to-one margin and still have the Montana Senate lose its Democratic majority?”

    I think many people are attracted to a divided government. It provides balance. Perhaps, too, Montanans are moving past partisanship and not voting strictly along party lines. They like Schweitzer, so they vote for him. They also like Rehberg, so they vote for him.

    I’d personally be happier with a more Democratic majority, but I definitely know people who purposely voted for a divided government.

  6. petetalbot

    I knew I’d get some flak over the toll booth comment. That I referred to the Bitterroot as “podunk” is a misinterpretation of my post. My comment was directed more at the McMansion and ranchette owners who are despoiling the valley, and then voting against planning and education — two of the things that make Missoula an attractive place to live.

  7. Duncan Idaho

    Moving Montana from Bush +20 to McCain +3 represents a massive “change we can believe in”, but if we’re trying to explain why Obama couldn’t make it over the top….

    There’s no doubt in my mind that at least 12,000 Montanans voted against Obama primarily because they thought he’d try to take away our gun rights.

    The Obama campaign successfully confronted many of Americans’ irrational fears, like the fear of blacks, Arab-sounding names, associations with radicals, etc. Ezra Klein addressed that effect very nicely. But Obama never addressed the irrational fear that Westerners have of government taking away our guns. Given his background, which didn’t include any personal experience with guns, he really couldn’t overcome that fear.

    I think progressives in the West have to wage some kind of reality-based campaign to defeat that fear of gun-confiscation before good Democrats will be able to compete consistently in these states. I don’t know if it can be done. There’s a reason why we call these people “gun nuts.” I remember back in about the late 1980s when George Bush Senior resigned his lifetime NRA membership to protest their extremism then. And obviously the NRA has become even more extremist since then.

  8. deb

    “I, like Jay and others, have to wonder about this split ticket voting. How can our Democratic governor win by an almost two-to-one margin and still have the Montana Senate lose its Democratic majority? Did the Republican Party focus on legislative races because it knew most of the others were hopeless? Any insights?”

    No insights from me: I’m still perplexed over how the GOP ended up with Kelleher, and we got stuck with Driscoll after the primary.

    I agree with Duncan Idaho’s post above about the gun issue being the main reason Obama didn’t carry Montana: look how gun sales are spiking up nationwide, now that Obama has become President-elect. We have some seriously fact challenged people residing here.

    But, it was darned close (2.5 points at, and–if I might just brag a bit–Butte Silver Bow voted Obama by 68.5% (according to the Montana Standard).


  9. klemz

    No misinterpretation, Pete, just anticipation.

    The set was there for somebody else to come along and spike that podunk tag right on the Bitterroot. I had to block apply the block to prevent a scenario contributing toward a growing perception that I have of this place.

    It was a very self-serving reply, I’ll admit.

  1. 1 Grassroots politics « Bunk in the West

    […] What I don’t understand is the title of the Missoulian’s article, Landquist surprises Anderson in county commission race. I guess that Anderson was surprised by his loss, but there is an ambiguity in the headline (as there often is) that suggests the folks other than Anderson were surprised by the result. Pete over at 4&20 Blackbirds, for instance, called it an “improbable county commissioner outcome” […]

  2. 2 We’re still racist « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] consider themselves racist but their language was thoughtless and hurtful. Then there was this conversation overheard in Caldwell, Mont. (You’ll have to scroll down a bit in the piece I’ve linked […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Pages

  • Recent Comments

    Miles on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
    success rate for In… on Thirty years ago ARCO killed A…
    Warrior for the Lord on The Dark Side of Colorado
    Linda Kelley-Miller on The Dark Side of Colorado
    Dan on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
    Former Prosecutor Se… on Former Chief Deputy County Att…
    JediPeaceFrog on Montana AG Tim Fox and US Rep.…
  • Recent Posts

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,689,426 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,734 other followers

  • November 2008
    S M T W T F S
  • Categories

%d bloggers like this: