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Supporters Take to Streets to Get Burns Over the Top

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester, right, who is challenging three-term incumbent Conrad Burns, talks with a supporter  in Townsend.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester, right, who is challenging three-term incumbent Conrad Burns, talks with a supporter in Townsend. (By Justin Sullivan -- Getty Images)

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Monday, November 6, 2006

BILLINGS -- Wearing a "Montana GOP Strike Force" shirt and armed with a clipboard, Stan Pulliam marched the streets here this weekend, convinced that he and thousands like him across the state can finally seal the deal for Sen. Conrad Burns.

Pulliam started Saturday morning with hoots and high-fives in Burns's campaign office to celebrate a newspaper poll showing that Burns, a three-term incumbent linked to the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal and given up for dead earlier this fall by some national Republican leaders, was now tied with his Democratic challenger, Jon Tester.

"If we could tie it, we felt all along that our get-out-the-vote effort would get us over the top," Pulliam, 25, a paid campaign worker who came to Billings in the summer from Oregon, said as he studied his clipboard.

Using 13,000 volunteers and 100 professionals flown in last week by the Republican National Committee, the Burns campaign said it contacted 60,000 known Republican supporters Saturday by phone or by knocking on doors. By today it expected to reach its entire target audience of about 300,000 voters -- nearly half of the registered voters in this huge, sparsely populated state.

It warmed up Saturday afternoon, and residents were out on their lawns raking leaves. Pulliam, though, was not interested in just any potential voter. He was on a mission, stopping only at houses where residents had been identified as probable Burns backers.

Most of these people had been telephoned several times and had received multiple pieces of campaign literature, some of it targeted to issues they had said they cared most about.

"We are done persuading," Pulliam said. "Now, we just want to get the people who are already persuaded to get out and vote."

To that end, Pulliam pounded on another door. After it opened and before Pulliam could finish his please-vote spiel, the woman of the house, Mary Fuqua, 65, announced: "Yeah, we are voting for Burns."

Her son, Tom Olsen, 47 and a roofer, then rushed to the front door and began to complain, but not about Burns. He liked the senator, he said, and would certainly vote for him. It was massive campaign overkill that angered Olsen: "You guys have contacted us by mail and phone at least 10 times. That is enough."

-- Blaine Harden

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