Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Sunday, 2 November 2008

Wyoming saddles up to McCain

Michael Buchanan
BBC News, Wyoming

Two cowboys on their horses

It's a long way from Washington to Wyoming, and there's slim chance voters from cowboy country will send Obama to the White House.

At the rodeo, the flag has been saluted. The anthem has been sung. The crowd have been energised; it's time for some action.

First up - a local rider from Wyoming. The blue gate opens. The bronco charges in.

And within two seconds - literally - the cowboy has been unceremoniously dumped onto the dirt.

"No score," announces the MC, as if we didn't know. "But nobody leaves the arena feeling down," he adds, and the crowd cheer politely.

Fred Ballard
If [Obama] wins, we've been let down pretty badly
Fred Ballard
Wyoming voter

The cowboy is ingrained in the DNA of Wyoming.

From the flat plains in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west, the essence of the cowboy - individual, traditional and patriotic - defines the state and hence its politics.

This is Republican country, Dick Cheney's home state, and the prospect of Barack Obama becoming president - as the polls currently suggest - raises temperatures.

Raised hackles

Mary Manes has two sons in the military. They've both served two tours in Iraq and one of them is getting ready to return in April.

She doesn't hold back.

"I don't trust him; he has no political experience to speak of. So my prayers will be that the Lord is watching us [because] it would be that bad."

Fred Ballard is so displeased at the prospect of the Democrat winning that he wonders aloud whether he wants to talk about it. But he can't help himself.

"If he wins, we've been let down pretty badly. He's got no experience," says Mr Ballard.

"He says he's going to attack Pakistan. Sure it'll happen. You know it'll happen, I know it'll happen. But you don't tell them it's going to happen. That's stupid, and his inexperience is going to cost the United States."

"I'll probably take my money out of the stock market," adds Bob Brismeister, attending the rodeo with his wife.

"He'll raise capital gains [taxes]. There'll be absolutely no reason to invest. Or work."

'Douse of racism'

Though Barack Obama has made inroads in some Republican states, he doesn't stand a chance in Wyoming.

He's trailing by about 20% in polls, and the small team of volunteers who were in his Casper campaign office were calling potential supporters in Colorado and Montana rather than their home state.

One said a mixture of habit and tradition, sprinkled with a douse of racism, put paid to any hopes they had of winning Wyoming.

We feel better about our local economy than we do about the national economy
Kevin Sadler
Casper Chamber of Commerce

The state of the economy, which appears to have helped Senator Obama in many parts of the US, isn't such a pressing issue here.

Wyoming remains relatively prosperous according to Kevin Sadler, president of the Casper Chamber of Commerce.

Energy production - coal and natural gas - underpin the local economy, and there is still strong demand for jobs here.

"Energy is going to be needed no matter what the economy does so we still have a lot of confidence locally. We feel better about our local economy than we do about the national economy."

Wyoming may not however be another complete write-off for the Democrats.

They have a chance of winning a House seat here which, were it to happen, would result in the first Democrat in 30 years being sent to Washington to represent Wyoming.

Two cowgirls on their horses

Back at the rodeo, as another bronco is chased from the arena, the crowd cheer when the MC reminds them that the election will finally be over on Tuesday.

The ringmaster adds that it's been going on so long that he almost grew to like Hillary Clinton. "Almost," he repeats, "in capital letters."

The crowd laugh heartily.

Senator Clinton is viewed as the ultimate liberal around these parts, and no-one would want to be associated with that label in Wyoming.

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