Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How'd he do it?

At the weekly Aging Writers Kaffee Klatsch, the talk was about how Bob Kelleher managed to win the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Harold Hanser, a former county attorney here who has known Kelleher for many years, offered this theory: Kelleher did well in the same places that Ron Paul did well. Ron Paul did well, he speculated, in sparsely populated Eastern Montana and in the libertarian enclaves around Flathead Lake. Check the numbers, he predicted, and you would find that Kelleher did the same thing.

True? Well, sort of. Hanser's prediction about counties where Paul did well was right on the money. For the state as a whole, John McCain won 78 percent of the votes that were cast either for him or for Paul. In Flathead and Lake counties, Paul won nearly a third of the vote.

Kelleher also did well in those counties. He won 36 percent of all the votes cast in the Republican primary, but he won 44 percent of those cast in Flathead and Lake counties. Paul and Kelleher also both ran well in Park County

Get away from the lake, though, and the comparison starts to break down. As Hanser anticipated, Paul did run well in some rural counties at each end of the state. Kelleher, not so much. Paul got an impressive 38 percent of the votes in Wibaux County, for instance, but Kelleher got only 23 percent. Same in Sanders County: Paul got 31 percent, Kelleher only 29 percent.

I didn't get much sleep last night, so anyone is welcome to check my numbers. But it does appear that the same people around Flathead Lake who liked Paul also voted for Kelleher. Why? Not sure. Maybe they just don't like the Republican Party. Maybe the only candidate they cared about was Ron Paul, and Kelleher got votes on name recognition.

Whatever the explanation, it was a hell of a result. Just think: By the time McCain finishes his third term as president, he will be almost as old as Kelleher is now. When Kelleher runs for re-election (assuming, of course, that he gives Max Baucus the heave-ho) he will be 91.


Montana Headlines said...

The Ron Paul people were backing Mike Lange, and they are pretty organized. I'd be surprised if they voted for Kelleher.

There might be a subset of Paul voters who were just casting votes against McCain but who weren't connected with the Paul movement -- these might not have been aware (or cared) that Lange was the Ron Paul candidate of choice.

Without exit polling, we will never know.

As I noted on MH, Kelleher's win was first and foremost the result of there not being any prominent Republican willing to step up and take on Baucus.

If we had the equivalent of a Roy Brown, with the ability to raise money and campaign and with some decent name recognition, there would never have been a 6-way primary.

One would like to think that GOP leaders are swearing never to let that happen again. It shouldn't have happened this time.

Mark T said...

It will be an interesting campaign, if there is a campaign. Baucus has already said he won't debate, and who can blame him - he'd end up looking like the Republican.

Kelleher will probably get after Max for the prescription drug fiasco, for example. No Republican would do that. Then there's the war, the tax cuts, USA PATRIOT ... Max has a lot to answer for, but he never has to answer within the Democratic Party.They just like that he wins.

KIrk Dooley said...

My guess (from a safe distance of 1200 miles) is that the upset wins of Kelleher and Driscoll are not the work of saboteurs switching parties so that their incumbents face the weakest possible opposition. It is that the voters looked at the quality of folks running for the offices and were so fed up with the choices they had, that they voted for the guys who did the least campaigning.

My gut (or sheep entrails) tells me that if "None of the Above" had been on the ballot, it would have won in a landslide. ;-)