Unlike the 2012 heavyweight bout between Tester and Rehberg for U.S. Senate, candidates in the wide-open U.S. House race face the challenge of name recognition.
Missoula voters are familiar with local council member Dave Strohmaier, of course, but few east of Drummond know the Democrat. And those in eastern Montana may recognize state Rep. Franke Wilmer of Bozeman and state Sen. Kim Gillan of Billings, also Democrats, but they're new names to most of western Montana. Republican front-runner Steve Daines is facing the same problem—a recent poll showed 64 percent of likely GOP primary voters had no idea who he was.
Perhaps that's why Wilmer just called my house.
The MSU political science professor who, so far, has raised more money than her primary opponents, says she has personally called more than 5,000 voters in the last couple weeks in an effort to get her name out there. She said she's particularly interested in reaching folks in Missoula who probably know very little about her.
Wilmer spoke to me mostly about her background, which ranges from field research in the former Yugoslavia during the war to waiting tables. She said her experience is what separates her from her competition.
That and a trusty phone list, of course. When I got off with Wilmer she was preparing to make more calls.