While at the Big Tent in Denver two weeks ago, I got to chat with bloggers from all over the country. It was a great way to pick their brains about things happening in their own backyards. I may seem really smart today for having called focused on Obama and Schweitzer in early 2004, but really, all I did was listen to the local bloggers on the ground in Illinois and Montana. In this networked medium, one of the best weapons an effective blogger can have is a good ear.
So making my way through the tent, I had the great pleasure of running into a couple of North Dakota bloggers, including Chet from North Decoder. Given that we haven't had a reason to focus on ND politics before, I asked for a primer on the state's political scene, and today, Chet delivered.
The most surprising factoid? There is no voter registration in North Dakota.
See (for those of you not from here), North Dakota is the only state in the U.S. that does not have any form of voter registration. Any citizen who shows up with a driver's license or other statutorily acceptable proof of residency is allowed to vote.
That's pretty cool, and my second-favorite voting system after Oregon's 100 percent vote-by-mail.
The state has a conservative media, Republicans control all but one of the state-level statewide offices, had until 2006 a super-majority in both houses of the state legislature. Then again, Democrats control all three federal seats in the state (both U.S. Senate and the state's single House seat), and scored enough gains in the state Senate in 2006 that the chamber is within reach this year (they need three seats). So there is a streak of prairie populism running through this state of 650,000. And that is, in large part, why Obama is suddenly a serious bet for the state's three electoral votes.
McCain seems to have abandoned North Dakota's Republicans, having announced he will not open any offices in North Dakota. (click here). By comparison, Obama's campaign has announced it intends to have 12 offices opened in the state by October 1st, in 11 towns/cities, including 2 offices in Fargo. The smallest town on the list of likely Obama office towns in October is Linton, a great little town in southcentral N.D. with a population of about 1,300. Five of the nine currently opened offices had their Grand Openings [the week of August 25].
The current Pollster.com composite score in North Dakota is McCain 42.4, Obama 42.3, making it the tightest state in the country. Given that Bush beat Kerry by 28 points in the state in 2004, its quick turnaround into battleground status in a short four years is clearly one of the major stories of this election cycle, despite its tiny electoral impact. The state may be relevant not just for its EVs, which may be precious if this thing remains tight, but as additional proof of the Democrats' continued national resurgence.
Click through to the North Decoder's primer for more info on our newest purple state.