One month ago I covered the campaign to put Ron Paul on the Montana ballot and learned that it might boost Barack Obama's chances in the state.
"It makes McCain's job here a hell of a lot harder," says James Lopach, the head of the University of Montana's political science department. "There is inviting soil for both Paul and Bob here. Some of those disgruntled conservative voters will be overjoyed to see them on the ballot."
Today comes this poll from Montana State University-Billings:
If this year's presidential election were being held today, for whom do you think you would vote?
Barack Obama 44.4%
John McCain 40.2%
Ron Paul 4.2%
Ralph Nader .7%
Bob Barr 1%
The gap between Obama and McCain is exactly the same as Paul's support in the state. In the interals, Paul is drawing independents, "other parties," and Republicans, but no Democrats whatsoever.
This shouldn't surprise anyone. McCain only carried eight counties in the Montana caucuses, coming in third in the popular vote, behind… Ron Paul. Paul won 20,606 votes in the nonbinding June primary, and this is a state where only 450,000 ballots were cast in the Bush-Kerry race. (The all-time record for a Libertarian candidate was the 9,825 votes Ed Clark collected in 1980.) If around 25,000 people vote for Paul, Nader, and Barr, then the winner in Montana only needs to hit 48 percent. Obama's closer to that than McCain.