As we mentioned in our last post, the worst-case scenario for the Montana GOP would be if we are headed for a brokered convention. The sight of having South Dakota next door to us with a contested Presidential primary in June -- inundated with attention from GOP presidential candidates lusting after their delegates -- would be a sign that the February 5th Montana caucus was a gamble that didn't pay off.
Having a couple hundred thousand Republican voters in Montana realizing that this year, their votes would actually for once have meant something -- but that the delegates were long ago allocated in February by a couple thousand active party members... Well, we can just imagine how that will go over with Joe Montana.
There is, however, redemption for us, and if handled well, it could play out very well. The best of both worlds, almost.
Here's what the Montana GOP should do if after February 5th it appears possible that no one candidate will have enough delegates to win on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention:
First, Montana Republican leaders need to make sure that all of the remaining viable candidates are actually on the ballot in the June primary -- which will still take place as scheduled. As far as we know, only the Romney and Paul campaigns have made efforts to get their men on the primary ballot. Whoever else is left in the game needs also to also be on the ballot, even if the Montana GOP leadership has to go out and collect the signatures personally.
This will, of course, mean getting a real campaign chair for John McCain. It is a travesty that Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger stepped into the McCain chairmanship -- not only does it ensure that John McCain will take the drubbing of the season in the Montana caucuses, but it discourages party regulars who might otherwise be drawn to McCain from getting involved in his campaign.
Why on earth did Bohlinger say in late December that he would be the McCain chairman, knowing that in a couple of weeks he was going to get married and then leave the country on his honeymoon for nearly all of the pre-caucus period? Based on those facts alone, he most certainly didn't sign up with the McCain campaign so he could help McCain.
GOP party leaders will need to bypass Bohlinger and convey to the McCain campaign the urgent necessity to create a position above Bohlinger in the organization for Montana. We still want Bohlinger aboard, definitely -- he just can't be the top man.
And they'll need to get McCain on the ballot. Same for Giuliani and Huckabee, if they are in the running. Huckabee has some organization in Montana (although we are unaware of any efforts to get Huckabee on the Presidential primary ballot in June) -- Giuliani doesn't have any organization in Montana, but we'll still need to make sure he gets on the ballot if he is in the race.
Then, the Montana GOP needs to explore whether it will be possible at this date to amend their rules to require its delegates to vote for the winner of the primary on the second and subsequent ballots unless released.
At the very least, a strong party chairman like Erik Iverson can make it clear to the Montana delegates (and to the national campaigns) that this is how the Montana delegation will vote on second and subsequent ballots. The appeal is simple -- if you don't vote the way the primary election goes, then you will be slapping the Montana voting public in the face on behalf of the Republican Party. The delegates will get the message and vote in their party's best interest.
Since by definition a brokered convention will have multiple ballots, this would make the Montana primary suddenly worth fighting to win. New ball game. And we would get a lot of attention in that scenario, since the nomination at a brokered convention will by definition not be decided on the first ballot (which goes to the caucus winner) but on a subsequent ballot (which would go to the primary winner.)
We know from experience that Chairman Iverson occasionally steals ideas from MH (well, actually, we imagine that what happens is that he just comes up with the same ideas independently because they are good ones -- but it's fun to pretend otherwise.)
The Montana GOP is working hard to do the most good for the party and for Montana in influencing the Presidential nomination. To do the best thing possible given the normal situation, that is. The caucus, again, was a good idea to try to accomplish that. It needs to start thinking, however, about how to handle things if they don't go as per usual. And this year, the unexpected seems to have become what is normal in the GOP nomination contest.