Barack Obama has 5-point lead in Montana, according to a new poll from Rasmussen Reports. John McCain had led by 5 in their only previous poll of the state back in April.
It would, obviously, be premature to conclude that Obama is the favorite in Montana. Our regression model still thinks that the state ought to favor McCain by about 6 points, and will probably maintain that opinion until we see some other good results for Obama in (i) traditionally red states or (ii) states out West. Thus far, Obama's bounce had come mostly in blue and purple states east of the Mississippi, which is why this result is surprising.
But there are two things I think we can make of it. Firstly, it certainly validates Obama'a decision to campaign in North Dakota today. If you'll recall, Obama has already spent several days in Montana. Yes, that was nominally in connection with the state's Democratic primary, but at that point Obama was already 80 percent of the way to general election mode. While I don't think Obama is the odds-on favorite to win Montana, he very probably is the favorite if he runs a campaign there and McCain doesn't.
Secondly, we're seeing a bit of a cultural divide in Montana between cultural conservatives who have resided there for a long time, more libertarianish folks who have resided there for a long time, and new migrants who like the cheap land and beautiful scenery and bring more of a West Coast mentality to the state. In this poll, Obama leads by 27 points among Montanans who rarely or never attend church, and by 20 points among people who attend occasionally, but trails by roughly the same margins among people that go to church at least a few times a month.
A couple other polls out today too. In Rhode Island, which also hadn't been polled in a long time, Obama leads by 28 points in a Rhode Island College survey. This is not a surprise considering his recent results in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Speaking of which, there is yet another poll out in Connecticut, this one by Research 2000 on behalf of Daily Kos, which shows a 22-point lead for Obama (and suggests that Joe Lieberman would lose to Ned Lamont if that matchup were held today). Finally, a Strategies 360 poll in Washington has Obama ahead by 8.