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So much for a 50-state Obama campaign. Now down to 46 max

September 21, 2008 |  8:24 pm

Exactly 44 years after Lyndon B. Johnson became the last Democrat to capture the state of North Dakota in a presidential election, it looks like Barack Obama won't be the next.

The Associated Press reported this evening and an Obama spokeswoman confirmed that the Chicago-based campaign is pulling its 50-some staffers out of the heavily Republican state full of embittered small towns and shipping the workers east to Minnesota and Wisconsin, where the Democrat's prospects seem brighter and closer.

John Kerry did the best of recent Democrats there, getting 36% of the North Dakota vote in 2004 -- 3 percentage points more than Al Gore in 2000.

The abandonment of at least one Midwestern state by Obama comes as a new AP poll indicates that race could play a significant role in deciding a close national election. (See video.) Some experts

estimate the first African American candidate of a major party might be as much as 6 percentage points more ahead if he wasn't black.

Obama supporters hope that their months of work, 11 closing North Dakota field offices and widespread television advertising in the rural state may benefit down-ticket Democrats on Nov. 4. The Obama staff evacuation comes as early balloting is about to start there.

According to the AP, the McCain campaign has no staff or offices in North Dakota, another of those high Plains states where the livestock population far outnumbers the humans.

Few campaigns ever openly admit abandoning any state and some, like George W. Bush in 2000 and McCain this year, openly talk of competing in a state like California, as a feint to force their opposition to defend it unnecessarily.

Earlier, Obama halted television advertising in Georgia. Idaho was conceded a Democratic write-off early on, as is Alaska now, given the presence of its popular Republican Gov. Sarah Palin as the vice presidential running mate on the GOP ticket.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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