Barack Obama is leading John McCain by five percentage points in Montana. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state shows Obama attracting 48% of the vote while McCain earns 43%. In April, the numbers were reversed with McCain leading 48% to 43%.
It would be truly stunning if Obama could turn Montana into a competitive state this November. George W. Bush won Montana’s 3 Electoral College Votes by twenty percentage points in 2004 and by twenty-five points four years earlier.
Sabrina Holland, 25, isn’t typically an early riser.
“I am today,” said Holland, who at 5:10 a.m. Thursday was the first person in line for tickets to an Independence Day picnic with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.
“I’m a Republican,” Holland said. “I’m here (to get tickets) for friends and to see what we’re up against.” This week, the Montana’s Obama for America campaign announced not only that the candidate would spend the Fourth of July in Butte, but also that he’d be the featured guest at a public picnic Friday at the practice field south of the Montana Tech HPER Complex.
News spread throughout the community Wednesday night and Thursday morning that a limited number of tickets to the picnic would be available at the Venus Rising Espresso House at 124 S. Main St. beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Behind Holland, Democrat Rob Fleming, 40, was second in line.
“I was here at four and nobody was here so I went home,” he said. When he came back a little after 5 a.m. and saw Holland at the door, he got in line.
Like Fleming, Ken Devine, 59, was driving through Uptown Butte in the wee hours of the morning, not wanting to miss another chance to see Obama.
“I came by at quarter to three because when they had them (tickets) at the Civic Center I didn’t get any,” he said.
Devine, a self-proclaimed Union Democrat said that he circled back several times before seeing Holland and Fleming and joining them in line shortly after 5 a.m.
Number seven in line was Wende Dwyer, who arrived at 6 a.m. Dwyer is a Butte native who said that she was back in Butte from Fort Worth, Texas for the holiday.
“My boys are 13 and 10 and when you have an opportunity to be part of a movement in America that’s so exciting and optimistic I think parents have an obligation to expose them (children) to what’s happening,” she said.
By 7 a.m. the line had extended down to the corner of Mercury Street and for another block and a half. Glenn Bodish, Butte Silver Bow Arts Foundation director, opened the doors to the Venus Rising Espresso House and was busy taking coffee orders from those waiting in line. Bodish said that the Obama campaign had approached the BSBAF about renting the space.
“I think it’s exciting,” he said. “You couldn’t have a better opportunity for the arts foundation.” Retired teachers Janice and Don Plessas arrived at 7:26 a.m. and took a place at the end of the line. The two had read about the tickets to the picnic in that morning in the newspaper, put their dogs in the car and drove straight to the Venus.
“I think it’s remarkable to have a presidential candidate come to Butte,” Don said. The couple said that they had wavered between Obama and Clinton early in the campaign, but agreed that they would be supporting Obama in November.
“I want him as our next president,” Janice said.
The 2,000 available tickets were limited to four per person and scheduled to be available through noon Thursday, but were gone between 10 and 10:15 a.m. said Caleb Weaver, communications director for the Obama campaign in Montana.
“On such short notice, we were thrilled to see such a response,” he said.
The Obamas spent Thursday night in an Holiday Inn Express in Butte. Today cheers greeted Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters as they arrived to watch the town’s Independence Day parade. The crowd broke into song, singing a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Obama’s oldest daughter, Malia, who turned 10 on Friday.
When the senator took the microphone to greet parade goers, he thanked them for the song and joked, “I finally told her the truth that all the fireworks and stuff are not just for her,” he said to laughs.
He wished the people of Butte a happy Fourth of July and continued, “On this day, when we celebrate this great nation of ours, it’s worth reminding ourselves that what makes this country great is not the size of our military or the size of our economy or the big buildings that we have. What makes it great is its people, and all of you are part of what I celebrate when I think about America,” he said.
Obama praised Montana’s beauty, saying he was making a play for every state in November, including reliably Republican ones like Montana. He delivered a shorter version of his campaign speech, and asked the audience to remember those suffering amid all the Independence Day celebrations.
He shook a few hands afterward and then sat in the stands to watch the parade floats pass by.
During the parade a flatbed inched by carrying a big sign reading, “Republicans Support Family Business” and people carrying McCain signs, the crowd replied by chanting, “Obama! Obama! Obama!” The candidate himself smiled and waved.
After the parade the Obamas hosted a ‘family picnic’ for about 1900 in a field with the snowcapped Highland Mountains in the distance.
They also were to spend part of the afternoon sitting for interviews with such family friendly magazines as People, Essence and Parenting.
Obama apologized for not walking the parade route, citing security concerns that would have required everyone along the route to be screened by Secret Service. He said that long process might have ruined everyone’s fun and he didn’t want to do that.