HELENA - In another sign that Barack Obama's campaign considers Montana up for grabs in the November presidential election, his headquarters announced on Wednesday it has hired a full-time state director here.
Named as Montana state director was Mike Dorsey, who previously held the same job for Obama in Missouri and Rhode Island and was his Midwest political director, overseeing an 11-state region. He will be based in Helena.
Dorsey, 34, was born and raised in St. Paul, Minn., and received a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Kansas in 1996. He previously worked on a number of campaigns, served as the coordinated campaign director for the Rhode Island Democratic Party and was deputy research director of the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Dorsey wouldn't divulge how many paid staffers Obama would have in the state, saying only that there would be "staff sufficient to talk to all Montana voters."
For the primary election, Obama opened 14 offices across the state and has more than 50 paid campaign workers here.
"Our priority is expanding our strong grass-roots movement for change across the state so we can win Montana and the White House," Dorsey said. "Montanans stood for change in record numbers in June, and they know that John McCain, a candidate who is offering more of the same failed Bush economic policies that benefit the wealthiest Americans, isn't the change we need."
In Montana's June 3 Democratic presidential primary, Obama defeated Hillary Clinton, 57 percent to 41 percent, with the rest going to "no preference."
"I haven't seen so much excitement and interest in the democratic process in my lifetime," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. "Record turnout and people getting involved is good for our democracy. I'm pleased to see the national political scene hit Main streets in Montana."
McCain's campaign didn't return a call seeking a response to Dorsey's comment or a question about what his plans are for a campaign in Montana.
Last week, Obama's campaign announced that its first general-election television ad, entitled "Country I Love," would begin airing in 18 states, including Montana.
Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe announced Dorsey's appointment, along with state directors for Alaska, Iowa, New Mexico and Oregon.
"The network of volunteers and grass-roots energy built up during the historic primary season has given us an enormous and unprecedented opportunity in the general election," he said in a press release. "This list of competitive states is longer than ever before."
Plouffe said Obama intends to wage "aggressive campaigns in these traditional 'red states' states and compete for every vote."
Since 1948, Montana has nearly always been a red state, supporting Republican presidential candidates in all but three elections. The Democratic exceptions were when Harry Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in 1948, President Lyndon Johnson topped Barry Goldwater in 1964 and when Bill Clinton won over President George H.W. Bush in 1992, thanks to Reform Party candidate Ross Perot capturing 26 percent of Montana's vote.
A Lee Newspapers poll of 625 registered Montana voters, taken May 19-21, showed McCain leading Obama, 47 percent to 39 percent, with 14 percent undecided. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
The same poll found 73 percent said the country was on the wrong track, while 17 percent believe it was on the right track, with 10 percent undecided.