Obama’s Organizational Legacy in Montana

By Beacon Staff

The Missoulian‘s Keila Szpaller has an interesting piece about Democrats there seeing a surge in younger members, drawn into the Party by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Now some of these newly active Democrats are turning their attention to local issues. Granted, we’re talking about Missoula, a traditionally left-leaning town. But the story puts a local spin on what has been a looming question since Obama’s win: How will the new president make use of the massive grassroots organization at his disposal? And will these newly-enthusiastic people remain politically engaged?

From the story:

“I think there’s some, if I dare say, youthful enthusiasm built around this Obama phenomenon,” said political analyst Craig Wilson, a political science professor at Montana State University-Billings. “But it still remains to be seen if this is a long-lasting endemic change or kind of a charismatic bubble that emerged at some point in time that’s likely to burst.”

Craig said he isn’t sure the renewed fervor is uniform across the state. Rather, Missoula is a university town – with the youth to whom Obama appealed – in one of the most heavily Democratic counties in the state. He said the vigor doesn’t seem to have hit the GOP with the same force either. Despite the party’s success in winning the state Senate, Craig said its enthusiasm is somewhat down, and the lack of a visit from presidential candidate John McCain probably contributed.

“The closest was (Sarah) Palin’s plane stop in Great Falls to get gas,” he said.

Still, over the years, Missoula County Republicans have seen a steady presence of younger people, especially from the College Republicans and home-schoolers, said local chairman Will Deschamps. And he said the timbre of their presence recently has changed some, too.

“I’ve seen the last 24 months the involvement get a little deeper and a little broader,” Deschamps said.

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