How much for three votes? 

The Montana Republican Party announced plans last week to open one of its five new statewide campaign offices at 3601 Brooks Street in Missoula. But just as GOP officials started glowing over the announcement, Barack Obama’s campaign unveiled much larger plans Tuesday, showing the differing levels of support being deployed to earn the state’s three electoral votes.

“We are spending significant resources on an unmatched campaign infrastructure,” said Steve Hildebrand, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, during a call with reporters. Citing Montana as one of seven key swing states, he traced the dimensions of a statewide grassroots political machine that will target some 194,000 unregistered voters: 16 local offices, 40 volunteer team leaders, 1,110 team members and 14,000 total active volunteers.

But Jake Eaton, executive director of the state GOP, says size doesn’t matter. He cites a Rasmussen poll that shows Republican nominee John McCain gaining six points on Obama with Montana voters during July.

“Even when they’ve got $850,000 going on TV, it’s still a dead heat,” Eaton said. “They have to put that kind of investment here to even be competitive.”

And, he adds, money doesn’t mean efficiency.

“They have separate local offices for Obama, Max Baucus and the local party headquarters,” Eaton says. “[They’re] duplicating rent payments, electricity, phone costs and coordinating volunteers.”

While his party’s volunteers are all under one roof, it’s unclear how much McCain will benefit from the GOP’s new Missoula office. Since the state party foots the bill for the space—not McCain’s Minnesota-based North Mountain Regional Office—an emphasis will be made on local candidates.

“Our number one priority is taking control of the state legislature by expanding our majority in the house and taking back the senate,” Eaton says. But, he adds, “On election day, a vote for a local Republican candidate will also mean a vote for John McCain.”
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