Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s voice echoes over the crowd of more than 300 gathered on Feb. 5 in Missoula’s DoubleTree Hotel ballroom, where Republican caucus voters hear last-minute speeches from GOP Presidential candidates on a statewide conference call.
“My friend Chuck Norris…if I appoint him secretary of defense, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban will just simply say ‘we can handle a lot of things, but we don’t want to stand up to Chuck Norris,’” Huckabee jokes.
As the night progresses, booze flows heavily, and the excitement rises before climaxing with the final count. Bartenders hustle to replenish multiple bottles of Grey Goose, Lamar’s White Label, and Johnnie Walker Black Label. Lots of rocks, no mixers.
The line at the bar grows, and cheers erupt as Paul greets Montana over the telephone. His sign-waving supporters sit tensely, eagerly awaiting their opportunity to whoop it up for their candidate.
A nearby woman casually approaches the Paul contingent. “Where are you all from–the university? Are you organized? Who’s your guys’ leader?” She asks coyly, sussing them out.
“No. We’re independent. We’re just here,” one of them answers.
A slightly-buzzed McCain supporter wearing a glittering bright red hat raises her voice at the podium. “Would the speakers after me,” she begins, “the two for Ron Paul and the two for Mitt Romney…please, keep it short. OK? Stupid…sweetheart. Please keep it short! So we can vote.”
Bombarded with a vociferous chorus of boos from nearly half the room, she says, “I’m thrilled that I’m booed! And…”
“Sit down!” someone barks.
“I will sit down, just please vote for John McCain.”
Following the vote and final tally, over 50 Paul supporters swarm the stage for a group picture and several minutes of sustained self-congratulation for their Missoula victory.
Outside the building several giddy Paul supporters walk by local television news vans, and one says triumphantly, “Now they’ll talk about us.”
But Mitt Romney wins the statewide vote, and all 25 of Montana’s delegates to the GOP national convention.