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CAMPAIGN WATCH: This week in the race to November's elections in Montana

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HELENA, Montana — Although expensive TV ads and Election Night parties grab campaign money and attention, on-the-ground strategies — with far less glitz and the occasional animal run-in — can make or break a candidate's run for office.

"We might be able to rival postal workers with dog bites, cuts and everything else," Montana Republican Party spokesman Chris Shipp said of staff and volunteers going door to door. "It's literally they're putting out blood, sweat and tears."

Thousands from the state's Democratic and Republican parties have taken to the phones and the streets this year in an effort to garner votes through one-on-one time with people in targeted groups. With open U.S. Senate and House seats as well as a host of others in the state Legislature, efforts have hit high gear.

Democratic Party spokesman Bryan Watt said Democrats have knocked on more than 225,000 doors so far and made more than 600,000 phone calls to voters. Shipp said Republicans have knocked on 100,000 doors and made more than 250,000 calls.

In a state favoring Republicans, the GOP's ground strategy involves keeping their rural stronghold. Shipp said they are specifically encouraging those voters who hold GOP values but might not otherwise vote to do so. A strong contingent of staff and volunteers are located in the small town of Havre, and staff and volunteers are also in the larger cities of Billings, Helena and Missoula, where they are pushing to make some headway in known Democratic territory, he said.

No matter where they are, Shipp said staff and volunteers are pressing the same message: more jobs, less government; more leadership, less politics.

For their part, Montana Democrats are intensifying their ground game in an effort to chip away at Republican control in the state Legislature and turn out voters for their U.S. Senate and House candidates. They have fielded a candidate in every race this year, and Watt said reviving successful strategies from 2012.

"What we found in 2012 is that's what works ... making that contact, that personal touch and making sure when it comes down to it, they get to the polls," he said.

Democratic staff and volunteers are working in urban areas, with one focus on college campuses, Watt said. Another program focuses on Native American voters, and groups have been sent to five reservations to meet with people.

Those out pounding the pavement are showing an incredible amount of energy because of issues including health care, public lands and protecting a woman's right to choose, Watt said.

The Democrats' ground game will climax at the end of October with a barnstorming tour of the state by candidates and lawmakers, led by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.

"We'll do rallies, get folks pumped up to get out to vote," Tester said. "It's a tradition thing we've done since before I became senator."

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