Obama shooting for Montana now?

Jake Turcotte

With less than 48 hours to go before Election Day, talk of the usually reliable red state of Montana going Obama is being seen as a real possibility.

Both CNN and NBC have moved the Big Sky state from leaning McCain to toss-up.


This isn't the first time Montana has been in the news this election cycle.

You'll remember Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer was the surprise hit of the Democratic National Convention two months ago.  The Governor electrified the crowd causing the networks -- which normally ignore whom they consider b-listers -- to stop their blabbering pundits to carry the high-spirited speech.

“We need all of you to stand up,” he yelled. “Colorado! Stand up! Florida! Stand up! Pennsylvania! Get off your hind end! In the cheap seats! Stand up! We want to hear you from Denver to Detroit, from Montana to Mississippi, from California to Carolinas.”

You want to talk about folksy?  Montana's governor makes Sarah Palin sound like the Queen of England.  (See one of his campaign ads below).

Obama leading

Regardless, the state's in play.  A new CNN poll released on Friday shows Obama actually leading by a point.

"Montana's usually a reliably Republican state in presidential campaigns. It's been won by the Democrats only twice in the past half century. If you're a Republican and you're fighting for Montana in the last few days of the campaign, you're not in good shape," said CNN Senior Political Researcher Alan Silverleib.

Florida 2000

Get this.  The Obama campaign has shipped 300 lawyers to the Big Sky state to assist with the election.  What will they do?  The Billings Gazette reports they will make sure that voters aren't "turned away or discouraged from voting."

Not only that but the Obama effort already "has 40 paid field directors, 14,000 volunteers and more than 60 'staging locations' statewide, where workers will coordinate a final get-out-the-vote push that began Friday and culminates Tuesday, Election Day."

"We are mounting a massive field effort to turn out voters, in a way that this state really hasn't seen before," said Caleb Weaver, an Obama spokesman.

Obama win

With Montana moving to toss-up status, CNN says if the election were held today, Obama would win with 291 electoral votes. A candidate needs only 270 to win.

If Obama were to grab Montana, part of the credit would go to Texas congressman Ron Paul.  He's on the ballot representing the Constitutional party.  And he's polling at four percent of the vote.

This has caused the Republican National Committee to dump $300,000 to $400,000 to stop the state from turning blue.

McCain needs more

But even if Montana and the rest of the toss-ups go McCain it's not enough.  That's why you see McCain and Palin practically living in Pennsylvania.

As NBC's Chuck Todd explained to Tom Brokaw this morning, if McCain gets all the toss-ups as they currently stand (Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, and Nevada), that totals only 252 electoral votes.  Pennsylvania is his path to crossing the 270 threshold.

But, it's still not that easy.  As Todd explains, if Nevada goes Obama (which is where the state currently leans), McCain's got to get New Hampshire.

"[Pennsylvania and New Hampshire] is the only path he's got left," Todd said. "They know this and that's why they had to figure out how to put Pennsylvania back in play. We don't know if it really is. We know he's spending a lot of time there and they had to figure out if New Hampshire, a state that's been incredibly kind to McCain's political career in the past, to see if it can resurrect him one more time."

Where's John McCain today?  Campaigning in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

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