One week to go! And to highlight the run-up to the November 4 election, members of Missoula's Kiwanis Club heard predictions of what will happen from a pair of prominent political figures.
Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, who once served in the state Senate, predicted that Barack Obama will win both the popular and electoral vote for President next Tuesday. Van Valkenburg figures Obama will win 320 electoral votes, 50 more than he needs to win.
That Van Valkenburg would pick Obama is no surprise. What was surprising was when Republican Bob Brown, who served two terms as Secretary of State and ran for governor four years ago, agreed. Although he acknowledged McCain is a fighter who could defy odds and pull out a Harry Truman-like victory at the last minute, he said it's unlikely. He expects Obama to win because the country really does want change--from Republicans to Democrats.
Could Obama win Montana? Van Valkenburg thinks so, but only if Ron Paul--who is on the ballot only because Montana's Constitution Party put his name there against his wishes--draws enough votes away from McCain.
(Interestingly, a large majority of Kiwanians raised their hands when asked if they planned to vote for Obama, while only a few expressed similar support for McCain. Yet, when asked who they thought would win the Presidency, the hands vote was fairly evenly split.)
I also was surprised at how similar Brown's and Van Valkenburg's predictions were in other areas. For instance, both men predict that Democrats will extend their slim majorities in both houses of the U.S. Congress. In fact, they believe Democrats could come close to a "magic number" of 60 in the Senate, which would allow them to close debate on any bill with a party-line vote.
Both predict a comfortable victory for governor Brian Schweitzer as he seeks a second term. Both expect Democrats to maintain a majority on the state land board, giving their nods to Steve Bullock as Attorney General and Denise Juneau as Superintendent of Public Instruction. Both men feel Republican Duane Grimes has an edge for State Auditor, but are split on who will win the Secretary of State's race. Van Valkenburg feels Democrat Linda McCulloch will prevail; Brown is confident that Republican incumbent Brad Johnson will earn a second term.
Both men also believe the Montana legislature is ripe for a reversal, with Democrats poised to take over a majority in the House, while Republicans will earn a razor-slim lead in the Senate.
Seven days until we find out.