The big couple of days has arrived, and the question that everyone is waiting for an answer to out of Missoula is whether Ron Paul's people have put together enough delegates to the GOP state convention to elect their own slate of national convention delegates. That alternative slate would displace the official slate of delegates proposed by the state party -- which presumably will be made up entirely (or overwhelmingly) of delegates intending to vote for John McCain at the national convention.
MH has made some discrete inquiries of some of our usual muck-raking anonymous sources, and while we understand that they are busy and do have other things on their mind while they are up in Missoula, the only conclusion that can be reached in reading the tea-leaves is that either someone doesn't know how to count -- or else everyone is guessing and no-one is actually doing any counting.
That, or MH doesn't have the right muckraking sources.
On the one hand, we've heard strong assertions that the RP people have the votes, and on the other we've heard it equally strongly said that there is no way that the RP people have the votes. Needless to say, the two are mutually exclusive.
Carol of Missoulapolis, who is there at the convention, makes the observation that the buzz she is hearing in the halls is discontent about the caucus and about the prospect of a Ron Paul takeover, and she wonders if the two are related.
Our vote would be that they most certainly are related -- although we would hasten to add that it is hard to imagine being able to anticipate this kind of problem.
Regardless, the caucus gave Ron Paul supporters an early organizational focus. By coming in second in the caucus, defeating both John McCain and Mike Huckabee, they had a taste of what a little bit of organization can deliver. Their organization was in place and their precinct people were already in position -- months before the delegate selection process started that has led up to the convention. By contrast, John McCain seems never to have had an organization of any kind in Montana. This doesn't bode well for McCain's success here at the convention, since organization and planning is everything when it comes to caucus and convention systems of delegate selection.
It could fairly be stated that without the caucus, this struggle over Montana's delegates, with RP supporters making a strong play for sweeping the national slate, would likely never have happened. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
We'll know when we check our local listings tomorrow night or open our papers on Saturday morning whether Ron Paul supporters pulled it off at the convention. The sad thing, of course, is that if Paul wins, it will be huge news of McCain getting embarrassed and out-organized in Montana after he had the nomination wrapped up. Whereas if John McCain ends up winning, it will likely be an understandable "so what?" reaction from the press.
May it all end well. And we'll keep our ear to the ground to listen for hoofbeats from the direction of Missoula.