obama at Crow Agency

Sen. Barack Obama greeted by tribal leaders in Crow Agency, Montana, May 19
Photo: Barack Obama

It took every caucus and primary in the nation to decide the winner. Last night, as polls closed in Montana and South Dakota, Sen. Barack Obama claimed victory in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary. With a win in Big Sky County and cascade of support from super delegates, Sen. Barack Obama claimed the Democratic party’s nomination at a rally in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The two final Democratic primaries were near mirror images of one another. Obama took 56% of the vote in Montana’s open primary, Clinton 55% in South Dakota, where registered Democrats only could vote. The candidates performed uniformly with rural, exurban, and urban voters across the two states ““ in strong contrast with other recent primaries, where city and country voters have split their allegiances.

Both candidates had campaigned with gusto in these upper plains states. A reader of Politico reported yesterday, “My Dad lives in a tiny town (2,500) in SD and he’s been assigned 1/4 of the Democrats in the town by the Obama campaign. That’s probably a whopping 200 people at most. He said Obama’s campaign had good, updated lists, a paid coordinator in a nearby town who was proactive at contacting him.”

Another commented on differences between the Obama and Clinton campaigns: “The Clinton family has out-campaigned Obama personally speaking, but the Obama field team has been much larger and much stronger in SD (13 field offices or so?).”

south dakota chart

Clinton prevailed in heavily rural South Dakota, though three of the state’s party leaders — Sen. Tim Johnson, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and former Sen. Tom Daschle — had all endorsed Obama. Sen. Johnson said that he would vote for Clinton at the Democratic convention, in keeping with South Dakota’s popular vote, should the nomination still be contested.

Today’s edition of the Missoulian reports, “Obama defeated Clinton in Montana because of a strong grass-roots advantage, a loyal following of young voters and a decided financial edge.”

Dennis McDonald of Melville, Montana’s Democratic Chairman and a super delegate, told the paper, “As a cattle rancher, I recognize a stampede when I see one. I haven’t seen this kind of excitement since I worked on Robert Kennedy’s campaign in 1968.”

Sen. Obama performed better in Montana than he had in neighboring Oregon.”¨ Voter turnout was high. The Great Falls Tribune reported that there were 2000 more primary votes cast in Cascade County than in 2004. In Park County, 1,287 absentee ballots were filed ““ nearly four times the number of absentee votes cast there four years ago.

Turnout in Butte, Montana (Silver Bow County), was extraordinary. Some 43 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots Tuesday, more than voted in the last two presidential elections and the sixth highest turnout among all U.S. counties in the Democratic primary. Hillary Clinton won the county, home of the nation’s copper mining industry.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, did particularly well in Indian country. The Illinois senator won 19 of the 24 South Dakota and Montana counties were Native Americans are ten percent or more of the population.

Super delegates Gov. Brian Schweitzer, U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, and party Vice Chairwoman Margarett Campbell of Poplar joined McDonald in announcing that they would cast their votes for Obama at the Democratic convention in Denver.

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