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Go West, Young Lobbyist

New West reports on links between Jack Abramoff and Montana Senator Conrad Burns. Criminal conduct appears to have taken place. Matt Singer has more. Montana's an interesting bird. Though the GOP's dominated at the Presidential level for some time now, elections for Governor, Senate, and the House of Representatives have been consistently competitive with the Democrats now holding two (Senator Max Baucus and Governor Brian Schweitzer) of the four big statewide offices.

April 26, 2005 | Permalink


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Montana hasn't been particularly solidly Republican on the Presidential level, either. Dukakis pulled 47% in it -- 1% above his nationwide average, and better than he did in New Jersey, Ohio and Michigan. And Clinton narrowly took it 4 years later, although he lost it narrowly to Dole in 1996. Gore and Kerry would have probably have had a shot at it had they thought it worthwhile. (The same is also all true for South Dakota, by the way, except that Clinton lost it by a hair in 1992.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw | Apr 26, 2005 9:33:37 AM

I know nothing about Montana, but I imagine Gore and Kerry specifically would not have done well there. Howard Dean, however, might have, if he got his NRA message out in a general election. The West/Mountain area has a different cultural preference, influenced by the enormous, compared to the East, amount of National land. There is a remnant of the pioneering culture that I think holds sway in the area, at least enough to make the kind of difference we are talking about here.
Colorado is a very interesting case with all of the migration. Montana, may be as well. I find Max Baucus frustrating, but probably a hell of a lot better than the (R) he beat.

Posted by: theCoach | Apr 26, 2005 9:57:42 AM

Someday people will look back at Abramoff and the shadow cast upon our government. I try to remind myself that this is the year 2005, but what old Jack has done takes me back to 1857. You wouldn't think with all the areas of corruption that are possible, that someone could still go back to the Indian reservations for more lucre. Thieves always seem to have more hands than the two the rest of us have.

Posted by: The Heretik | Apr 26, 2005 10:08:27 AM

I think Montana, due to history, a little different than the other cowboy states. For one thing, there was the Anaconda co., which was increadibly corupt and actually ran the state in it's early years. Anaconda ran the big mines in Butte. These mine attracted a lot of irish and northern european immigrants and were the scene of a large amount of union activity.

Another factor is--I think--the old progressive movement--the progressive farmers party or whatever it was called--that started up in Wisconsin. I think that party had influence throughout the whole northern tier: Wisconsin, Minnisota, the two Dakotas, and Montana. Someone with better knowledge might correct me.

And finally, there are a lot of enviromental voters in western Montana. It is a very sparsly popualted state so a few votes here and thre can swing it.

Posted by: cw | Apr 26, 2005 11:46:05 AM

Clinton did comparatively well in Montana and South Dakota in 1992 only because of the Perot factor. Also, South Dakota has demonstrated a bit of an anti-incumbent bias relative to the rest of the country. These are not states for a Democratic Presidential candidate to target.

Posted by: Brittain33 | Apr 26, 2005 1:28:34 PM

To Brittain33: quite apart from the fact that the exit polls showed Perot pulling votes about equally off Clinton and his GOP opponent in both 1992 and 1996, your explnation doesn't explain Dukakis' good showing (47% in both states, versus his national showing of 46% nationwide and 48% outside the South). I will agree, though, that -- especially since the two states together contain the grand total of 6 electoral votes -- it's probably not cost-effective for a Democrat to spend time on them as opposed to other states (including Colorado and Nevada).

Dukakis' Nevada showing, by the way, was abysmal, and Clinton was surprised when he himself took it 4 years later. On the other hand, Dukakis not only took West Virginia but pulled 48% in Missouri and fully 55% in Iowa -- better than his showing in Massachusetts. I don't understand a lot of these shifts at all myself.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw | Apr 26, 2005 3:01:39 PM

No, it doesn't. I have two responses to Dukakis's showing in South Dakota and Montana in 1988.

One is that Dukakis benefited from the tail end of the farm crisis, at a time when rural voters could still vote en masse for a Democrat. This is one reason why Iowa went heavily for Dukakis and why many Democrats won seats in the Plains states in '86. This factor is gone.

Secondly, I think our polity has changed so much since 1988 that Dukakis results have lost much of their relevance. As you've said, there have been disconnects with 1988 patterns all over the country. Start to add up the very big shifts vis-a-vis 1988 in West Virginia, New Jersey, Illinois, California, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, and the Dukakis results no longer seem indicative of much any more.

I know that Perot pulled nationally from both candidates in 1992, but I'm not certain if that was replicated at a national level. I can believe that a lot of conservatives and manly men who might have considered voting Democratic in 1992, but who pulled the lever for Perot, have moved mostly out of the zone for Democratic recruitment. We can try to work to change that zone, sure, but that's a separate issue from allocating state resources differently. Under the current paradigm, the upper Plains states are still out of reach.

Posted by: Brittain33 | Apr 26, 2005 4:53:10 PM

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