Montana Republicans decided last weekend to move their presidential caucus up to February, with new party chairman Erik Iverson saying it will encourage presidential candidates to visit the state and enhance the relevance of our state’s delegates’ votes.
Whether you agree with this move, and predictably the Democrats do not, there’s still this funny part of me that derives a deep satisfaction from knowing that Montana is unlikely to receive visits from presidential candidates.
I want Montanans’ voices to be heard. Really. I just don’t want to have to listen to non-candidate Fred Thompson, Hillary Clinton or any other contender sit at the counter of Norm’s News in a huge crowd and pretend to be interested in ranching, or the Griz-Bobcat rivalry.
I was prompted to think about it after a cringe-inducing story in the New York Times last week that described Rudy Giuliani struggling to connect with rural Iowans. Here’s my favorite excerpt from a diner in Greenfield, Iowa:
Mr. Giuliani laughed. “I called my wife this morning and I said, ‘Judith, I never have seen more corn in my life.’ You know the median, where they put the grass in the middle? There’s a lot of room there to put some more corn in. I don’t know why they haven’t done it.”
He paused. “When do you start the picking and the harvesting? Starts pretty soon, right?”
“November,” a woman answered. “End of October, November.”
Mr. Giuliani, who has a summer home in the Hamptons (my link), where locally grown sweet corn is sold at small streetside farm stands, explained that on Long Island, corn is harvested at the end of August.
If I were in the room for that exchange I would grab the nearest greasy fork and stab myself with it. Other conversations detailed in that story involve Giuliani trying to relate to Midwestern farmers by talking about how, um, Staten Island is like many agricultural communities.
That visit and others like it sound like utter torture to me. Aren’t you glad you can have your eggs and coffee without having to deal with that?
It still remains doubtful whether we’ll get any presidential candidates beyond Mitt Romney’s visit to the GOP convention in June. In the 2007 Legislature, Colstrip Republican Rep. Duane Ankney pushed a bill to move up Montana’s presidential primary to February, arguing that it would enhance Montana’s electoral clout and motivate presidential candidates to campaign here. I remember sitting through the bill’s initial hearing, where Missoula Democrat Sen. Carolyn Squires scoffed that the only candidate willing to pay a visit to Montana would be Dennis Kucinich.
As the presidential race escalates over the next year, I’m inclined to say there might not be anything wrong with a little anonymity.
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