The unlikely spotlight shining on Montana isn’t only reserved for Democratic presidential frontrunners apparently. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul spoke to a rowdy crowd in Missoula last week. And defunct hopeful Mike Huckabee was in Billings this week, campaigning for gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown. And I fully expect presumptive GOP nominee John McCain to show up any day now.
The Democratic presidential primary is attracting all sorts of political attention since Montana votes dead last, along with South Dakota, to decide who will face off in the general in the longest election season ever. But the state’s relevance on the Democratic side sure seems to be attracting a handful of high-profile Republicans to the Treasure State; maybe to assure independent-minded voters here that this is still a conservative stronghold.
Even as nationally the GOP is delighted that the Democratic nominating contest has drawn out, turned ugly and opened inter-party wounds – on the state level all the attention given to the enemy is apt to be worrisome. As it should be. Since all eyes are on the tight race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the majority of new registered voters are bound to lean left. So the state’s Republicans are rolling out their own party’s stars.
In fact, Paul is planning a return trip for the GOP convention here. And during Huckabee’s recent visit he actually made news, telling reporters in Billings that Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright needs the Democrat to lose to “justify his anger, his hostile bitterness against the United States of America.”
Montana is such an important stage at this point that former Pres. Bill Clinton has confirmed a return visit, and I would expect Obama and Clinton to do the same. It would serve McCain and his party well if he joined them, especially since McCain placed third here behind both former governor Mitt Romney and Paul when his party did vote.
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