After Montana Republicans Pick Him, Romney Drops Out

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – Just two days after Montana Republicans cast their delegates for Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate has suspended his campaign.

Romney’s decision Thursday to suspend, and not withdraw, means he still maintains control of Montana’s 25 delegates to the national convention, along with those in some other states, said Erik Iverson, chair of the state GOP.

Although Romney was no longer in the running for the presidential nomination, Montana Republicans were still pleased they had a chance to play a role in the process with their early caucus.

“I think it absolutely validates our decision to hold a caucus on Super Tuesday,” Iverson said. “If we had waited until June, Montana Republicans would have had one choice: John McCain.”

McCain, already well ahead in the delegate count, effectively sealed the Republican nomination with Romney’s decision to suspend his campaign.

But Romney can still use the delegates he holds as leverage in negotiations with McCain over policy positions or even appointments, Iverson said.

“All those types of things have been historically part of the discussion,” Iverson said.

Montana’s delegates remain bound to Romney on the first ballot at the party’s national convention this summer, unless Romney officially withdraws from the race or releases the delegates to vote for whom they would like.

If the nomination were for some reason to remain contested without a clear winner on the first ballot, there would be a second vote where delegates from Montana and other states could have their pick, Iverson said. Both Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul remain in the Republican race, although they trail far behind McCain in the delegate count.

Errol Galt, a rancher from Martinsdale, is one of Montana’s two members to the Republican National Committee and is also bound to Romney based on party rules. He said he supports McCain and would like to be free to vote for him. But he said he understands the process has to play out.

“We have to wait for instructions from Gov. Romney,” Galt said. “Obviously I would prefer to support Sen. McCain on the first ballot. But I understand the system has to work through the way they want it to work through.”