With the election just four days away, predicting Montanas presidential pick is as murky as guessing at the national election.
Earlier polls showed John McCain with a strong lead in the state, but a recent Montana State University-Billings survey places the candidates in what amounts to a statistical tie, with 44 percent of respondents saying they would vote for Barack Obama and 40 percent saying they would vote for McCain.
University of Montana political science professors Jeffrey Greene and Jim Lopach predict the state will ultimately go to McCain.
I think that when people vote for the president, their vote is based on Who is more like me? Lopach said.
Greene said that Obama and Joe Bidens backgrounds of Chicago politics and east coast establishment dont resonate with much of the west, with the exception of the west coast.
Neither Obama nor Biden are like the average Montanan, he said.
A possible threat to McCain, especially in a close election, could be third-party candidate Ron Paul, who won the Missoula Republican caucus and is popular with some Montanans. Greene said Paul resonates well with many Montanans because of his libertarian beliefs. Pauls influence depends on if the poll is right and it is a near tie in the state, he said.
If that poll is correct, I think Paul could make a difference, he said.
Short-term factors like the pervasive nationwide anti-Bush and anti-war sentiment could work in Obamas favor, Lopach said.
Padee Thall, president of the College Democrats, points out that Obama has also visited Montana a number of times, whereas McCain has not. In addition, there is a strong campaign effort on his behalf.
However, Jocelyn Gelt, president of the College Republicans, doesnt think Montana will break its trend of electing Republican presidents.
I think McCain has it, she said. It was a very long time ago that Montana went Democrat.
Montanas red reputation is likely due to the fact that Montana has tended to vote for Republican presidents, the most recent exception being the 1992 election, when the states electoral votes went to Bill Clinton, Professor Greene said.
However, when looking at the states entire history, Montana has gone back and forth, Greene said.
Montanas political ideologies have swung like a pendulum, Greene said. He later added that Montana is mistakenly thought of as a red state, but its traditionally a swing state.
Professor Lopach agrees that Montana cant be generalized as either Republican or Democratic, especially with such a mix of ideologies represented in the states governors, legislatures and congressmen.
Montana has been deemed a swing state in this presidential election, but with only three electoral votes, Obama likely cares more about winning states like North Carolina and Virginia, which together would earn him 28 electoral votes, Greene said.
Were not a prize, Greene said.
The youth vote has attracted a lot of attention during this election season and Lopach acknowledges that it could be a bigger factor in this election than its been in the past.
Greene said that while young adults were active during the Vietnam War, their movement was largely anti-establishment, and for that reason the concerted effort by many students to elect Obama is unique. Obamas campaign took advantage of the sentiment among many students that they can make a difference, he said.
Youre ripe to be enthused, Greene said.
But for all the analysis, the result of the election is still largely up in the air.
We dontknow, Greene said. We will know on Wednesday.