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Monday, June 05, 2006

Jon Tester v. John Morrison Ground Games

Jon Tester is looking good:

With only 31 hours until the polls close here in Montana, there is a lot of buzz. Within the past two weeks, Jon Tester's campaign has picked up incredible momentum. A week ago, a new poll showed us within a single point of John Morrison (in January, one poll showed Morrison winning 39-20). Everyone knows we've got the momentum. You can feel it in the conversations with voters on the doors and on the phones. You can see it on the letters pages in newspapers where Tester is racking up endorsements from former Morrison supporters and former Morrison staff, as well as grassroots Montanans.

It's in the air: Jon Tester is on his way to victory.

Here's what's happening all over the state:

Missoula: Although often dismissed by Montana political insiders, Missoula's role as the second largest county in the state and the most progressive community North of Boulder, West of Minneapolis, East of Seattle, and South of the Pole makes it an absolute powerhouse in Montana Democratic politics. In the last several primary elections in this state, Missoula has delivered more Democratic primary voters than any other county.

Expect Tester to win big. The last time I was in town, about a week-and-a-half ago, the yard signs wouldn't even give you a clue that there are two candidates running in this primary. Now, with phone banks that have been active for weeks, two final fundraisers/open houses that raised nearly $20,000 and attracted a combined crowd of nearly 300 people in a single night (a huge crowd in a state where some counties don't even have 1,000 people).

Tester's volunteers in Missoula have been out knocking doors, putting up signs, and getting voters to the polls. Meanwhile, Morrison's last event in this town -- a free concert at a popular downtown bar -- literally drew roughly a dozen people, including two Tester supporters curious to scope out the opposition. Morrison's campaign claimed to be dropping lit in this Tester-friendly territory. My sources on the ground say no lit was anywhere to be seen the last few days. Maybe they've packed it in and gone home.

Great Falls: This old school Democratic town in central Montana is the home of Tester's campaign HQ. It's also regularly in the top four of primary returns for Dems on election day. This is one of the few towns where a number of legislators have stayed neutral or are supporting John Morrison, so expect it to be a bit closer here. But Tester's campaign has been helped big time by Gwen Florio's reporting in the Great Falls Tribune. Following reports of Morrison's affairs, Florio caught the candidate refusing to pose for TV cameras until his upset-looking wife was moved into the camera shots with him. Since then, Florio reported that at least four former senior staff for Morrison have switched sides and endorsed Tester. She also caught the story of a number of prominent Montana trial lawyers flipping in the race and declaring that Morrison can't win in the general. Tester's hometown of Big Sandy is relatively near Great Falls (only a few hours away, close in Montana-speak) and with a bunch of volunteers pounding the pavement and cranking the phones, the campaign is excited.

Helena: The Queen City, Morrison's hometown for eighteen years and where our legislature meets, is firmly in the Tester camp. Dropping lit in Morrison's own neighborhood, Tester was winning the sign war by more than a 2-to-1 margin. The volunteers are out in force here, too. As the letters stack up in favor of Tester, I've heard the editorial page editors are literally beginning to worry about looking biased in the election because of the stack of Tester letters waiting to print while the Morrison campaign can't seem to find a sole willing to sign a letter actually promoting Morrison.

Helena's legislative delegation is squarely behind Tester and many of them have been out knocking doors for Tester in recent weeks. Helena isn't a big city, but it turns out in force. Look for Morrison's home to go with Big Jon and turn out for Tester tomorrow.

Billings: The Ohio of Montana, Billings is the swing city that often decides the winner of the general election, but it's relatively low primary turnout and its swing status makes it slightly less important in the primary election. County Commissioner Bill Kennedy, the only D on the Commission, is Morrison's treasurer (reportedly, he's got his eye on the Auditor's office is Morrison somehow pulls this thing off). Kennedy and Morrison have been working this town hard and it's been an admitted weak spot for Tester's campaign.

Billings also happens to be my own hometown, so last week, I hopped in my car and drove down here along with some other friends from B-town. And let me tell you -- the phone calls and interest in the campaign couldn't be better. Former U.S. Senator John Melcher (Morrison's former boss) came to town yesterday for a rally with Jon Tester. We mailed out 2,000 postcards inviting people and basically hoped that would do the trick. Yesterday, close to 150 people packed in to hear our former Senator and our next Senator. The crowd was wowed. Fence sitters fell off their perching places and are now firmly for Tester. One woman who has worked in Montana politics for twenty years left declaring that she used to be undecided but that her friends were now all going to hear her clear message: Jon Tester is the man.

We're getting yard sign requests. When we show up to place the sign, we find Morrison signs pulled up and tossed in the bushes. We call voters who tell us they gave money to Morrison but now find themselves unable to vote for the man.

These are just the big four cities, but together they account for nearly 50% of the primary vote.

Tester's got the big mo' here and elsewhere.

In Butte, where public land access is a big deal Tony Schoonen -- a well-known local sportsman has blasted Morrison for the weakness of his access positions while complimenting Tester for being a friend of hunters and fishers.

In Eastern Montana, reports from phones, commissioners, and sheriffs, is that Tester is the man. Farm country is unsurprisingly voting for the farmboy.

It's all about tomorrow, but let me tell you, out here in Montana, we're feeling damn good.

Let your friends in Montana know about Jon Tester.

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