Setting up their February 5 caucus, Montana Republicans took one look at Wyoming’s closed, convoluted (pro-Romney) caucus system--which provides little opportunity for public participation--and decided it was too democratic. As Montana GOP director Chris Wilcox explained to me, the party streamlined the system so only precinct representatives and elected or appointed officials can caucus (thus eliminating the unwieldy process of voter involvement). If this libertarian state ran an open primary, McCain might have a chance. But he is “significantly more centrist than the party that’s in power,” according Jeffrey Greene of the University of Montana. “The Republican Party of Montana is a relatively conservative organization--more like some organizations in the deep South.” Montana is thus likely an airtight win for Romney.
Delegates: Republicans, 25 (Democrats vote on June 3)
Format: Very closed Republican caucus.
Recent Polls: There haven't been any Montana polls, but they wouldn't matter anyway.
Democratic In-State Fundraising: Barack Obama, $66,565; Hillary Clinton, $23,310
Republican In-State Fundraising: Ron Paul, $88,883; Mitt Romney, $41,495; John McCain, $29,094
Endorsements: Republican Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger (McCain’s Montana campaign chairman) endorsed McCain, but Bohlinger is persona non grata with the local GOP for running on a split ticket with Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer in 2004—literally. They hate him so much they barred him from last summer’s GOP convention.
Mitt Romney has rounded up influential former governors, current Secretary of State Brad Johnson, and seven state legislators for his leadership team. Ron Paul has endorsements from eight state legislators.
Demographics: Montana is divided into three distinct demographic zones. The Highline Culture, prevalent in the north near Canada, is dominated by socially conservative, tee-totaling, anti-tax Swedes (likely pro-Romney). Western Montana, by Missoula, has a Wild West culture that’s “more permissive and less regulatory” regarding social issues, according to Greene--perhaps fertile ground for McCain-loving independents. Southern Montana, by Wyoming, is a swath of mining towns interspersed with ranches and other businesses--likely a mix of both political cultures. Internal party mechanics, however, will be the determining factor for the caucus.
Get a rundown of other states at play at TNR's Super Tuesday Primer, updated with new states every day leading up to February 5.