MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA
Barack Obama's campaign says it is serious about winning in Montana in November, announcing Wednesday that it is hiring a fulltime state campaign director. The Obama campaign says it considers the traditional Republican stronghold a critical state, and is buoyed by Obama's easy victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton in Montana's primary earlier this month. He faces John McCain in the general election. "The network of volunteers and grass-roots energy built up during the historic primary season has given us an enormous and unprecedented opportunity in the general election," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in a statement. "The list of competitive states is longer than ever before." Democratic presidential candidates have done very poorly in Montana in recent years, often getting beat by double digits. Both John Kerry and Al Gore were soundly defeated in Montana by George Bush in the last two presidential contests. Obama, though, has already made inroads in Montana during the primary battle. His campaign developed lists of volunteers and identified friendly voters and introduced Obama to Montana voters. The campaign is already running a television advertisement in Montana. Montana, with just three electoral votes, is unaccustomed to such attention from presidential candidates. "It's unprecedented at this stage for a Democrat to come in and say that Montana is one of the 15 states we can win," said political scientist Craig Wilson of Montana State University-Billings. Mike Dorsey will be Obama's Montana director. He served as Obama's Midwest political director last year and state director in Missouri. He said the campaign will build on the organization developed during the primary. "Montanans stood for change in record numbers in June and they know that John McCain, a candidate who is offering more of the same failed Bush economic policies that benefit the wealthiest Americans, isn't the change we need," he said in a statement. The McCain campaign did not return calls seeking comment. The campaign also announced Wednesday it is hiring state directors in Alaska, Iowa, New Mexico and Oregon.