McCain, Palin take the fight out West

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In Montana, for example, Democrats control the governorship, both U.S. Senate seats, four of the five statewide offices and the state Senate and are one seat shy of taking over the state House. Ranchers and farmers are complaining about punishing gas prices that are more than $4 a gallon and Mr. McCain’s opposition to big-spending farm bills that are popular with the state’s farmers.

Still, Ronald Reagan carried the state twice, Bill Clinton carried it in 1992, but not in 1996, and Mr. Bush carried it twice by large margins. According to the Real Clear Politics Web site, which tracks all of the state polls, Mr. McCain leads his rival by an average of 5.3 points there.

In North Dakota, Democrats hold both U.S. Senate seats and its one House seat, though not the governor’s office. Democrats have not lost a race for Congress since 1980. Yet Mr. Bush carried the state by a 27 percent margin last time.

But Democratic state Chairman David Strauss says, “Things are changing dramatically here. Voters by three to one say things are moving in the wrong direction. When you look at gas prices, even taxes in places like this, people trust the Democrats more to handle these things than the Republicans.”

He dismisses Mrs. Palin’s influence on the ticket as irrelevant in modern presidential politics.

“The choice of Palin is something people will consider in making their judgments about the presidential election, but I think people vote for president, not for vice president,” he said, noting that Mr. Obama “has been here three times. McCain has not been here.”

State polls show the race in a dead heat.

In New Mexico, a swing state that Democrats carried in 2000 but lost narrowly in 2004, where Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin campaigned Sunday, the race remains typically close once more. Polls show Mr. Obama with a 4.3-point edge.

Similarly, both Colorado and Nevada are in a statistical tie, with one point or less separating the two candidates.

Meantime, despite Mrs. Palin’s acknowledged appeal in the West, the McCain campaign expects to use her more in pivotal Midwestern states such as Ohio, Michigan and Missouri - more populated states that deliver a larger electoral vote. An ABC News poll taken after her nomination last week at the Republican National Convention showed she was viewed favorably by 47 percent of women and 54 percent of men.

Nationally, the Gallup Poll reported Monday that Mr. Obama’s bounce in the polls after his convention “has now disappeared totally” and that the McCain-Palin ticket “sits on a four-point advantage among registered voters” in a Friday-through-Sunday survey.

“That’s the largest advantage for McCain in either USA Today/Gallup Polls or Gallup Poll Daily tracking since May,” the polling organization said.

Western Republicans Monday said they were also picking up signals of a swing toward Mr. McCain and think Gallup’s national polling numbers will soon be reflected in their state polls when they are conducted later this month.

“If it is trending McCain’s way nationally, it is going to be trending McCain’s way in Montana because at the end of the day, Montana is a center-right state,” said Republican state Chairman Erik Iverson.

An internal Republican poll showed Mr. McCain leading in Mr. Iverson’s state by four points (50 percent to 46 percent) in early August. “I think by the end of the day, McCain wins Montana by ten points, not as high as Bush’s vote, but it’s going to be a comfortable margin,” Mr. Iverson said.

About the Author
Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is the chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, the author of five books and a nationally syndicated columnist. His twice-weekly United Feature Syndicate column appears in newspapers across the country, including The Washington Times. He received the Warren Brookes Award For Excellence In Journalism in 1995 and in that same year was the host and co-writer of ...

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