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Obama's trip out West

From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
BUTTE, MT -- The only thing Barack Obama needed to complete his Western swing was a pair of cowboy boots.

Campaigning in Butte and Missoula, MT yesterday, Obama declared that he wanted to learn how to fly fish, joked about drinking beer, and said he was on a search for Sen. Jon Tester's barber.

"Ten two, ten two, ten two," he chanted, indicating the directions in which fly fishermen cast their rods.  

In North Dakota yesterday, he greeted the crowd with an "Uff da," which means "oh my!" in Norwegian as he received a hockey stick from the University of North Dakota Men's Hockey Team.

The Chicago politician promised the crowd that he would hang it in his office, but he wouldn't "try to wield it" since his attempt to swing at a puck was as poor as his ability to bowl a strike. But a lack of ability in Western gamesmanship hasn't stopped Obama from trying to fit in.

Before stopping at M&M Diner in Butte yesterday, Obama swung by his hotel to change out of his suit and into more casual garb, wearing a gray Columbia fleece and a casual button-down shirt sans the tie. When he got to the state's Mansfield-Metcalf dinner tonight, the suit was back on, but Obama was boasting of his desire to drink a beer.

"I spent a little time in the M&M. I wanted to have a beer, but my staff wouldn't let me. They said you have to go talk we don't want you slurring your words," he told the crowd.

His emphasis on appealing to Western voters appeared to be more than just cosmetic, however. In his speech in Butte, Obama emphasized a message of personal resilience, declaring that people in the West's desire for good government had nothing to do with getting a handout. He also spoke about Native American affairs, promising that his administration would place a higher priority on their concerns than past administrations. Montana is home to 10 Native American tribes.

The trip underscored the senator's support in Western states, and he played up the idea that despite being poor in delegates, states like Montana may be rich in potential Democratic support. 

Last night, he praised Democratic governor, Brian Schweitzer, for "showing us the way Democrats can win in the West." 

In the primary process, Obama's has been the favored candidate in western states, winning North Dakota, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming handily. He's also currently favored in Montana's June 3 primary. He's been endorsed by the entire North Dakota congressional delegation and just last week he earned the endorsement of Wyoming's governor, Dave Freudenthal, and former Sen. John Melcher of Montana. At his rally in Missoula Saturday morning, he even earned the endorsement of the city's mayor.