Clinton Needs the Flathead if She Wants Montana

By Beacon Staff

When the Beacon posted a short Web story noting that Kalispell mayor Pam Kennedy had endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president it quickly drew a plethora of opinions, which ranged from support to utter outrage. And while it is open to debate whether her endorsement matters, the city she represents certainly could – especially if Clinton wants to pull off a major upset in Montana’s upcoming primary.

In the tight 2006 U.S. Senate race between Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Conrad Burns the two candidates ran relatively even in three of the state’s five largest counties: Yellowstone, Gallatin and Cascade. While Tester lost by more than 5,000 votes in Flathead County, he won by about 14,000 in Missoula County. Two years prior, Missoula County voted for Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry by a modest 3,000 votes. In turn, Flathead County residents opted for another Bush term by a whopping 15,000 majority. These counties, in regard to politics, rarely agree on anything.

And judging by the most recent Democratic primary results, Clinton could take the Flathead. There’s no doubt that our county has a conservative bent and, what’s more, a large “working-class” population. The former Clinton used to dominate Kentucky and the latter she used in her West Virginia wallop of Democratic opponent Barack Obama. Plus, Montana’s is an open primary and I would bet at least some Republicans here would cross over to vote for Clinton just to add more strife to the Democratic nomination.

Kalispell, and the Flathead, on paper look like the Montana urban area where Clinton could capitalize the most. And she definitely needs to, because Gallatin and Missoula counties, both flush with college students, are apt to vote overwhelmingly for Obama.

It’s unclear whether that will happen. Still muddier, is if the outcome will matter anyway, since many believe this contest has already sang its swan song.

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