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Clinton Dispatches Husband's Aide to Montana

In a sign that she is planning to stay in the presidential nomination fight until the bitter end, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) has dispatched a top aide to Montana to manage her campaign in that state's June 3 primary.

Matt McKenna, who has served as former President Bill Clinton's traveling press spokesman since December, is returning to his home state in an attempt to guide the New York senator to a surprise victory in Montana.

McKenna has been intimately involved in the rebirth of Democrats in the state -- The Fix's favorite in the United States, by the way -- having served as a spokesman for Sen. Jon Tester's 2006 campaign and for now-Gov. Brian Schweitzer when he ran for the Senate in 2000. Interestingly, neither Schweitzer nor Tester (nor Democratic Sen. Max Baucus) -- superdelegates all -- have endorsed either Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in this contest.

Montana, on its face, looks like a state that should favor Obama -- much of the vote in a Democratic primary comes out of Missoula, the sort of college town where the Illinois senator has dominated to date.

But, the Clinton campaign thinks it might be able to steal one thanks to large swaths of rural voters and the fact that Montana has already voted for a Clinton once -- Bill, when he ran for President in 1992.

(For more Fix handicapping on Montana, check out a post that appeared in this space a few weeks ago.)

McKenna's return to his home state came at a somewhat inopportune time for the former president. McKenna returned to Montana at the start of this month -- in effect leaving the former president without a full-time press person on the trail.

When that happens, things like this happen.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 11, 2008; 5:14 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Next: Republicans Quickly Pounce on Obama Remarks


People of Montana, need to think Of the bitter comment, on small towns, clinging to guns and religion.And think back how the economy was its best in the Clinton years. People had jobs and money.

Clinton is the Best Choice Obama is a Unknown

Posted by: p jacobs | May 9, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

This is from

"Known for its striking natural beauty, the Big Sky Country state has more than 50 state parks and still considers agriculture, especially wheat and cattle, its economic mainstay. It gained unwanted notoriety with the highly publicized Freemen standoff in Jordan and the arrest of the Unabomber suspect near Helena. The trend continued with the arrest of Russell Eugene Weston Jr., a Montana resident charged with shooting and killing two Capitol Hill police officers as he tried to storm the U.S. Capitol building in July 1998. While considered moderate, Montana remains one of the most Democratic of the Rocky Mountain states, which translates to pretty Republican by national standards, according to the "Almanac of American Politics." In 1992, Clinton became the first Democratic presidential candidate in 28 years to win Montana. Dole took the state in 1996."

Posted by: HannahGoldman | April 19, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

And yes, it's a bit of a joke, because we all know that Clinton had it in 92. But can you name another?

My point is, Clinton was an exception.
Montana's image is that of a conservative state that has traditionally supported Republican candidates.

Posted by: HGoldman | April 17, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I'm sorry.

When did Montana turn blue? Was that in the last presidential election?

Last time I checked, Montana has always been a red state.

Unless you're talking about a few hippies scattered through Bozeman, Missoula and Kalispell taking bong rips and debating their utopian ideals, I have to maintain that it is a conservative state.

I understand that you're hopeful it will be more liberal in the future, but it has years to catch up to other states with that definition.

Posted by: HGoldman | April 17, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse


Montana is NOT extremely conservative. Never has been. I've been here more than 50 years. What rock have you been under?

Posted by: AlaninMissoula | April 15, 2008 9:46 PM | Report abuse

The comment about Matt Mckenna being an opportunist is critical and incorrect- he is simply being proactive and doing his job. I have known Matt since childhood and wouldn't characterize him as that- He also is quick and intelligent, so the comment is unqualified and spiteful.

Does it matter what happens to the democrats in Montana? Montana is extremely conservative. Republicans are a dime a dozen there, so it seems like a waste of time to even discuss what will happen because it will not make a difference in the future.

Posted by: HGoldman | April 15, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

A clue about Montana. I'm afraid your generalizations about areas in Montana are wrong in some instances. You claim Whitefish and Kalispell are liberal when in fact Flathead county is one of the most Republican counties in the state. You also give way too much credit for colleges influencing some towns. Montana Tech in Butte is a small college. It has nowhere near the impact on local politics that the University of Montana has on Missoula. Butte is Democratic based on its labor roots. UM-Western is Dillon is also a small college, but Dillon and Beaverhead county vote conservative.

MSU is not a particularly liberal school. It has its roots as an ag college and has developed a lot of technical engineering programs, which don't attract liberals the way a primarily liberal arts school like UM does. And Bozeman is at best a swing area. Tester lost Gallatin County in 2006, though did better than Democrats usually do. Some of the most far right wing-nuts in the last Legislature came from Gallatin County.

A very good study of state political divides by UM Political Science Professor James Lopach very clearly demonstrates that the political divide in Montana is not really east VS west, but More North VS south, especially in the state east of the divide. The ranching counties, which are most conservative, are in Central and Southern Montana.

The northern counties are primarily grain-growing and have had a more Democratic bent.

Posted by: AlaninMissoula | April 14, 2008 9:32 PM | Report abuse


I too had the opportunity to see both candidates the day before you in Grand Forks. I thought that WJC stopping in Havre was a smart move, and if things break right, I'm told that HRC will do either Lodge Grass or Browning and probably Ronan.

The question is how much effect Obama's ill considered statements in San Francisco are going to have on Montana and South Dakota. You can (maybe) carry both states winning the major population centers (although in my view winning South Dakota after stepping on guns and religion is very unlikely), but talking in disparaging terms about small town America is not likely to play well in, say Silverbow or in the big empties in Central MT. I'd be curious as to what you think about that.

Posted by: leuchtman | April 14, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

McKenna has always been an opportunist. Hopefully when Obama ends Hillary's run, it will be the last we hear from the blowhard.

Posted by: Bozeman Bill | April 13, 2008 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Let me give you a clue Chris, I am from Montana. The Western part of the state that includes, Missoula, Butte, Helena, Whitefish/Kalispell, which are west of the Continental Divide are democratic strong holds. Butte a mining town, Helena the Capital, Whitefish/Kalispell have community colleges and tons of liberals, Butte is a college town (The School of Mines is there) but seriously it is all points west of the divide. Great Falls itself Democratic, Great Falls proper a split generally. East of the divide much more Republican it is where the Ranchers live, although Bozeman itself, a big college town and now high tech center, pretty liberal, probably go for Obama too. He will take Montana, just watch. So you analysis is ok, but not complete. Missoula no doubt will go Obama it's nickname in Montana, little Berkeley.

Posted by: A Clue About Montana | April 13, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

"But there was a lot of fulminating because Hillary, one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated -- and immediately apologized for it -- what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995. Did y'all see all that? Oh, they blew it up."

And for his part, Mr. Clinton, asked if he regretted his earlier comments, said, "I regret that there appears to be a double-standard about misstatements.

Posted by: Edward Murray | April 12, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

BHO has peaked, the other side of the hill slopes downward.

With all the money spent on this election, the USA could have fed all the people in a third-world country for a year.

If money can buy this primary, BHO will surely win. The general election, however, will go to McCain. What happens in Montana almost doesn't matter.

Posted by: Milo, MA | April 12, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

The state I really wonder about, though, is South Dakota, where there have been no public or private polls as of late. Though Daschle and Johnson have endorsed Obama, SD voters, as I recall, liked Bill Clinton, who almost won the state's electoral votes.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 12, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Hillary didn't vote for the war. Hillary voted for a resolution to give Bush II the authority to use force as an alternative if Saddam Hussein wouldn't allow the WMD inspectors in. Bush was authorized to work with the UN to accomplish that. Bush lied, Bush brought forth information that wasn't factual, and Bush was not acting like a president should - he had the intentions of going to war in Iraq no matter what anyone else said or did. How was Congress to know that he was such a shallow person? gw.

Posted by: Iowatreasures | April 11, 2008 11:25 PM | Report abuse




Posted by: . | April 11, 2008 10:22 PM | Report abuse


Glad to hear that you like Montana. I think Joel Achenbach had a good time here as well during his recent visit, as far as I got from his blog.

I'm in Polson, about 70 miles north of Missoula which is very blue and 60 miles south of Kalispell which is very red.

This is Obama country but then we are on an Indian reservation. Butte seems pretty Obama too though. I wouldn't put Montana as an Obama shoe-in but Hillary has a ways to catch up.

I enjoy your blog. Come on out for a Clark Fork River Ramble.

Posted by: markwa | April 11, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Matt McKenna's return to Montana shows Clinton is indeed serious about contesting the Montana primary. I believe McKenna's inside knowledge of the state was apparant in the places visited by Bill Clinton the week prior to the candidate appearances in Butte and Missoula. The former president visited Havre, Great Falls and Helena.

Great Falls is the state's third largest city and the central city of the
"Golden Triangle," Montana's richest grain-growing region. Helena is the capital (don't say Hel EEE na, if you don't want the Montana horse laugh). Both are majority Democratic cities. Havre has only 10,000 residents but is the largest city in a region we in Montana call the "HiLine."

What is the Highline? Well, trace U.S. Hwy 2 from "Browning to Bainville." The region stretches from the Rocky Mountain front to the North Dakota border. It is grain growing and is a swing district in Montana. There are old Democratic roots that go all the way back to the Non-Partisan League and other prairie populist movements of the late 19th, early 20th century.

But these people, many descended from Scandinavian immigrants that homsteaded the area in the 19-teens, are socially conservative. The growing Indian vote, though has checked the conservative trend there. In a state-wide race, it is an important region to control.

Montana small towns once got visits from presidential candidates when trains were the mode of transportation and "whistle stop" tours were in fashion.

But air travel means Havre last saw a major political figure when President Harry Truman and FDR before him rode the rails through town.

The two candidates of today visited just Butte and Missoula. Those cities are very important in a Democratic primary, but visiting other spots in the state may hold the key.

I'm sure both candidates were buoyed by the Montana visits last week. Both got very good receptions in Butte and Missoula. Clinton had visible support from major women office holders in Missoula and her reception at an airport-hanger "town hall" meeting was enthusiastic. Obama, true to his "rock star" persona, had a boisterous reception at a packed Adams Field House at the University of Montana campus. I had the privilege of attending both of those gatherings.

We are looking forward to having them back later and are glad that Chris is paying attention to our primary. We and South Dakota will have the "last word" before the convention and it's clear the candidates think that is important.

Posted by: AlaninMissoula | April 11, 2008 10:13 PM | Report abuse

An answer to Randy. Campbell is a state Democratic party officer and it is against party rules for a party officer to endorse any candidate before contested primary. By the way, she hadn't intended to make a public endorsement. Her support of Obama came out as an asnwer to an interview question, which she was quick to retract when it appeared in print. All the same, I guess we know where she stands.

Baucus, Tester and Schwietzer are not party officers and are not bound. They are super delegates not on the basis of rank in the party, but by virtue of holding national office in the case of the senators and being Governor in the case of Schweitzer. Just as other Senators and Governors have endorsed either Obamama or Clinton, the senators and governmor could endorse a candidate if they want to.

I believe our senators and governor see nothing to gain in being committed prior to the primary. They will make their intentions known after June 3. By the way, Jon Tester said winning the Montana primary, is just one criteria he will look at when deciding his vote. He is holding out the possibility of making a personal choice that may not be for the winner of the Montana primary.

Posted by: AlaninMissoula | April 11, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

What is this common gene (politics?) that causes selective memory loss in presidents and their spouses)? The anything-to-win gene?

I would almost want to cut off my ears than endure four years of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea, with my disdain probably in that order. Bill and Hillary might be in a tie for least sincere and most pandering. I hope we get past her soon - or John McBush is on his way for four not-so-different years of politics as usual.

She's like Freddy Krueger at the end of the movie. Don't look away 'cause she keeps creeping back up on you (insert scary laugh). Wake up from the nightmare Pennsylvania and Montana - before it's too late.

Posted by: DonJulio | April 11, 2008 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Obama to rich fundraisers:

Small Towners cling to Guns, Religion, and AntiImmigration and they are just Bitter.

By how many points bonjedi will Obama carry Pa and small towns in Pa?

His response; we can't confirm or deny the recording.

And that message will sound wonderful to small towns in southern Ohio, Pa and N. Carolina, right?

They are BITTER Sen Obama said last week. You owe thes folks an apology, now sir rather than looking down on these folks. People turn to Religion b/c they are bitter and frustrated with their lives? Religious voters will certainly be impressed with that slur.

All the millions you have raised won't fix this elitist problem.

And the Obama campaign has known about this remark for a week and has sat on it rather than issuing an immediate apology.

Posted by: Leichtman | April 11, 2008 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Yes sirree.
Did not have to be that way.

Michelle Shocked wrote,

"The secret to a long life's knowing when it's time to go."

Posted by: shrink2 | April 11, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

shrink2 writes
"I have said from the Fall of '07... that having stayed married to Bill would destroy her candidacy."

Ironic indeed, given that getting married to Bill created her candidacy.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Whatever happened in Montana way back in the 20th century don't matter a damn. That Bush and his Republican buddies have screwed things up so bad that they, and any Democrat that went along with 'em, should get their butts kicked out. Montana started doing that in '06 and dumped the evil and corrupt Sen. Burns. They're going to finish in '08 and get Obama on the ticket. And it don't matter what the Clintons think the meaning of 'win' is, either!!

Posted by: thebob.bob | April 11, 2008 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Well Hillary Clinton is running as Bill Clinton's understudy. They cite his "record" as hers whenever they feel good about it.

I have said from the Fall of '07 (when she was way, way ahead) that having stayed married to Bill would destroy her candidacy.

Now Bill has lost it again saying Hillary as a result of being age 60 has to be forgiven for not remembering she would never have brought her daughter to a war zone.

Too late. No good American can stomach the thought of Bill Clinton back in the White House. He has promised to stop his red faced finger wagging tirades, his lying, his cheating.

As I psychiatrist, I can tell you how people who want to change do it. This guy has not changed.

He would re-argue the meaning of the word "is" this evening if he thought someone cared what he thought.

But it is Hillary who is proposing we bring her husband back to the Presidency and for that, she is unelectable.

Posted by: shrink2 | April 11, 2008 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I think Montana superdelegates are prohibited from endorsing until after the June primary because of state party rules (isn't that why Margaret Campbell had to retract her Obama endorsement?) That would explain Tester and Schweitzer's silence.

Posted by: Randy | April 11, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Here's my take in things. Billary will waltz into the convention, make back-door deals with the superdelegates promising the sun and the moon and get the nomination regardless. The Obama people will feel they've been tricked and marginalized, (correct on both counts) and will proceed to riot in Denver. It will make the Dem. convention in 68' look tame by comparison. The same will happen in other cities across the country. The blame for this is easy, because the raging ego and sense of entitlement of the Clintons will not be denied. John McCain will be our next president, because the whole of the Democratic party will have imploded. All this, because of one woman's hubris.

I would suggest that you take your upcoming 'idiot bribe' coming from the treasury to buy firearms and ammunition, you may need them.

Posted by: Mark in Spokane | April 11, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Note: MT went for Bubba in 1992, as CC points out, but went for Dole in 1996.

Posted by: bondjedi | April 11, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Let me rearrange your intro, CC, so that it makes sense:

"In a sign of desperation, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) has dispatched a top aide to Montana to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic."

McKenna went to Montana because the alternative was Guam. His final instructions, we are told, were to keep the spread less than twenty.

Posted by: bondjedi | April 11, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

You Obama supporters are all alike. Why do you have to try to tear down Senator Clinton like that? Is that all you know is hate and division? Is this your Obama-man's vision of "hope"? You are so divisive! Loser!

Posted by: Presley O’Bannon | April 11, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Hot off the presses, from our friends at FOX News:

"Bill Clinton backed down Friday after reviving his wife's exaggerated account of her trip to Bosnia 12 years ago.

...Bill Clinton said he would no longer talk about the Bosnia trip.

"Hillary called me and said, 'You don't remember this, you weren't there. Let me handle it.' And I said 'Yes ma'am,'" the former president said as he visited the scene of a campaign office that burned down in Terre Haute, Ind."

What a metaphor - a humbled Clinton, the backdrop the remains of the Indiana campaign effort, pontificating on the most notable truth-stretching since the glory days of 1998 and Monicagate.

Posted by: bondjedi | April 11, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Matt Singer | April 11, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

It's been no secret on the board that I have supported Obama all along -- even back when there were 7 or 8 or 9 candidates in the field.

But I say, why should Hillary get out? She still has the support of millions of people.

I think the only things that will stop her campaign are, either: 1) running out of money; or, 2) Obama mathematically eliminates her.

Posted by: AdrickHenry | April 11, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

He's got his work cut out for him, with numbers like these.

Posted by: Matt Singer | April 11, 2008 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Montana on 6/3? Howard Dean can't like that. I'm sensing a Hillary intervention may be necessary in the near future.

Posted by: matt | April 11, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

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