There's a fierce battle underway in the red state of Montana with its sparse population, big sky prairies and snow-capped mountains. The 'Treasure State' went for Bill Clinton in 1992 but President GW Bush claimed it by 20 percent in the last two elections. However, Montana may hold the golden key to the White House for both presidential candidates as they search for a pathway to victory. Montana's three electorals could mean a win or loss on Election Day.
A recent CNN Poll of Polls handed Sen. Obama the slimmest advantage in Montana with 46 percent of likely voters backing the Democratic presidential nominee and 45 percent supporting Sen. McCain. Nine percent of likely voters remain undecided and that's the battleground both campaigns are hoping to claim on Tuesday.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) hit the state on Monday, carrying the Obama message of hope and "get out the vote" to about one hundred volunteers in Bozeman. Daschle credited their [volunteers] hard work for turning the state into a toss-up during the general election.
"If we win in Montana, we're going to win in the United States of America, and we're going to win big," said Daschle.
The Chronicle also reported that McCain surrogates -- state Sen. Roy Brown, the Republican gubernatorial candidate and his running mate, Steve Daines -- were in the Gallatin County GOP headquarters urging their volunteers "not to rest on their laurels. We need to step it up in the remaining days."
But, McCain has a steep hill to climb. Their late GOTV effort, increased competition, and sliding polls numbers are stacked up against the Obama national surge, local presence, and organized ground game.
"Obama has one volunteer for every 67 people in Montana," Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show last week.
Obama has visited the state five times, a rarity for the large state with a population of less than a million and his campaign has opened 19 offices here while McCain has none.
McCain's poll numbers began their southward slide in Montana at the beginning of October. In September, he was up by eleven and the latest Rasmussen Report telephone survey showed Obama only four points behind McCain.
Along with the additional boots on the ground for Obama, McCain must contend with increased conservative competition on the ballot. Third-party candidates Ron Paul and Bob Barr could split enough hardcore Republican votes here to hand Obama a narrow win.
To stave off an Obama challenge for Montana's three electoral votes, the New York Times reported the National Republican Party spent six-figures in advertising here in the waning days of the campaign.
Molly Burks, an Obama volunteer, from Livingston told Huffingtonpost Off-the-Bus, "The Obama team has been working this state for a long time. I was an Edwards' supporter but switched to Obama after John dropped out and I just voted for the next president of the United States!"
The polls in Montana opened at 7 a.m. and won't close until 8 p.m.