By Ron VandenBoom
Bob Ream, state chairman of the Montana Democratic Party, told the Hill County Democratic Central Committee Tuesday that the battles are going to be ferocious for the next 42 days.
Forty-two days is the amount of time left before voters go to the polls, Ream reminded local Democrats.
"And the air waves are going to be filled like you've never seen before," he said. "There may not be time for programming, but there'll be plenty of ads."
Ads, he said, that would in many cases be paid for with "soft money" coming from the Montana Democratic Party that has been sent them from the national party.
He said that they did not like using soft money to pay for the ads, but said that they had to be able to compete with the Republicans "and the Republicans are using it big time," he said.
Ream said the up-coming election is "extremely important," and said that the next president will be in the unique position of appointing three judges to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"And I don't think we need Marc Racicot as the next Secretary of the Interior, either," he said.
Ream told the crowd that current polling data indicates that in Electoral College votes, Gore currently has 326 to George Bush's 202. But the final say in who wins the election will be decided in the battleground states where Gore's lead is only two or three votes, he said.
If those are subtracted out, Ream said, Gore has 204 to 132 for Bush with 202 votes up in the air. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the election.
Ream said other poll results show Keenan 9 points ahead of Rehberg in the race for the U.S. House of Representatives race and Brian Schweitzer moving to within 8 or 9 points of catching Conrad Burns in the contest for the U.S. Senate seat. The O'Keefe vs. Martz battle is currently the closest showing only a 5 point lead for O'Keefe as the election enters its final stretch.
Ream said that a "historic" amount of money is going to be spent on the three top Montana races Schweitzer vs. Burns, Rehberg vs. Keenan, and O'Keefe vs. Martz.
Ream said that the Montana Democratic Party has the largest staff they have ever employed for an election with about 40 people now on the payroll.
Seven phone banks have been established in the seven most major cities in the Montana, Ream said, and about 10 field staff for the O'Keefe/Williams campaign were hired by the Coordinated Campaign a committee of all the Democratic candidates that coordinate their campaigns and work independently and yet under the state party. The Democrats have also employed eight staff to work half-time for Brian Schweitzer's campaign and half-time for the tier B candidates of Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Attorney General, and State Auditor.
Extensive phone polling has already been conducted by the committee, Ream said.
The goal is to try and track as many voters and their party preference prior to the election, he said. He said the system allows for more effective mail solicitations.
Ream presented a list of names determined to be strongly Democratic to Hill County Central Committee Chairwoman, Debi Friede. He also presented her with a thicker stack of names of Hill County residents whose party affiliation has not yet been determined.
Ream said he expects to have 60 percent of the voters in Montana identified prior to the election.