While we only sampled the Winter Kickoff, we were gratified at the fact that there were so many people there (over 300 were in attendance, and every forum was standing-room only -- staff were forever bringing in chairs and taking down partitions to make for more room.)
It made it easier to move in traditional Montana Headlines anonymity -- it wasn't that people weren't friendly, it was that it was definitely not the sort of affair where people were spotting you as the one character who wasn't a regular, and if you weren't wearing a name-tag, one could sort of blend in and soak up the atmosphere.
In the first MH post on the GOP state Winter Kickoff, we didn't mention Roy Brown or other candidates, but not because of any lack of attention.
While it was a truly comprehensive GOP rally and training event, with impressive organization from the youthful GOP staffers up in Helena, there was no question that Roy was a particularly bright star.
Nearly every conversation seemed to turn to him at some point -- and not a single one asking "can he win?" Rather, all one heard was words of excitement about the fact that Brown is showing signs of running such a competitive race.
The starting point for Brown is getting the Republican base unified behind him, determined for him to win. That brings us 40% of the way to victory -- and appears to be the case. That last 10% will be the toughest, but without the base energized, one isn't even in the game.
Another advantage that becomes clear is that Brown is incredibly popular amongst legislators and legislative candidates on the GOP side. That means that there will be 125 people out there going door to door and shaking their districts down for every vote for themselves... and for Brown. These legislators and legislative candidates also understand how much more they will be able to accomplish in Helena with a Gov. Roy Brown, and thus have tremendous motivation to make it happen.
Brown's strong candidacy, built on the foundation of running and winning impossibly hard races in tough districts in Billings, and made possible by his equally tireless performance as a hard-working legislator, was also a living example of how important control of the state legislature is to developing a "farm team" of strong candidates for other offices in Montana.
There wasn't any Pollyanna thinking on display. Everyone understands that $9 million Max Baucus dollars -- 90% from out of state -- will come pouring down on us in this election. Everyone knows that while Sen. Baucus himself can be defeated, it will take some incredible breaks, and perhaps a little divine intervention. And at the same time, there is an understanding that grassroots organization, along with strong conservative fundamentals in Montana, can overcome a lot of monetary disadvantage.
There is the problem of not yet having an OPI candidate, and the even bigger problem of not having conservative attorneys or judges willing to run for open Supreme Court positions. But more on the other state races in subsequent posts.
For now, it is enough simply to observe and report on the fact that Roy Brown fever is sweeping through Republican ranks. That, plus Erik Iverson's foresight and steady hand on the wheel at the state organization, leaves us positioned in a way we wouldn't have dared to hope for just a year ago.