The Oracle of Walker, Part 1: Three Surprisingly Interesting States

Everyone is currently focused on the traditional battleground states. Most of the talk, polling, and coverage have been about the normally competitive Great Lakes states and Florida. Thanks to rapid demographic changes, the southwest has also gained some interest. But there are three red states that I suspect will be very interesting: Alaska, Montana, and Mississippi.


Republican Ted "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens' senate seat is currently being challenged by Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Ted Stevens has become the poster child for corruption and pork barrel spending. In fact, John McCain has often boasted about his part in putting a stop to the Bridge to Nowhere. As a result, the Alaska senate race has so far been remarkably close. Polling has shown the race neck-and-neck.

Because Obama left the public financing system, he can afford and has promised to campaign in all fifty states. He has already started running ads in Alaska and will send at least one paid staffer to the state. He can even try putting pressure on John McCain to denounce Ted Stevens for his past pork barrel mischief. Libertarian candidate Bob Barr might do well ins this traditionally very libertarian state.

Even with Bob Barr stealing some votes from the right and Obama spending money, it is unlikely that John McCain will lose Alaska. He will probably not waste his limited resources in the far north. But in a state of only 600,000 people, a few extra paid staffers and some money spent on voter registration could make a big difference. Obama's injection of money might be enough to help put Mark Begich over the top.


Montana's Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer remains very popular and will likely win reelection easily. Democratic Senator Max Baucus' opponent is Republican Bob Kelleher. Bob Kelleher is a perennial candidate who has run repeated quixotic campaigns as part of both the Green and Democratic Party. He has zero support from the GOP party as a whole.

The Obama campaign claims that they are going to actively campaign in Montana. With no other big races bringing in Republicans, Obama might be able to drive up his poll numbers. While Obama will probably not win Montana, he could force John McCain to divert precious time and money to this normally red state.


Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans of any state. Over 37% of all Mississippians are black. If Barack Obama can dramatically increase African American turnout in Mississippi, he might make the state competitive. He would have an uphill battle. John Kerry only carried 14% of white votes in 2004. At the least, Obama could again force McCain to waste resources in a traditionally red state.

Even if massive African American turnout is not enough to allow Barack Obama to carry the state it could have a huge impact on the special senate race. Polling shows David Musgrove and Roger Wicker are currently dead even. Winning this senate seat could get the Democrats their long-hoped for 60-vote veto-proof majority.

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