It’s 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning in Whitefish, only about 20 degrees outside, and supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul stand on the corner of U.S. 93 and Baker Ave. waving placards and handing out campaign literature.
It’s the kind of grassroots action that has helped Paul, who polls somewhere in single digits nationwide, get more than his share of media attention. But Paul’s support runs deeper in Montana.
According to campaign finance information from the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C., Paul ranks second in fundraising among GOP candidates in Montana. According to the site Paul has pulled in $22,494 from Montana residents, putting him between Mitt Romney, who leads GOP fundraising in Montana with $31,100 and John McCain who has raised $14,475.
Romney has worked to get his fundraising lead in Montana. In June he headlined the 2007 Montana GOP Officers convention. He has an official Romney for President in Montana committee working statewide, and recently set up a finance committee to increase Montana donations.
But Montana Republican Party Chairman Erik Iverson isn’t surprised to see Paul running a close second. “Ron Paul has taken a very active interest in the Montana Republican Party presidential caucus,” he says, noting that Paul is one of only four Republican candidates to have an active campaign chairman here.
But money and grassroots support may not be the key to winning the Montana Republican primary.
Montana’s Republican party voted to hold a presidential caucus this year in which about 2,200 party officers and elected officials will vote for a primary candidate on Feb. 5. Montana’s delegates to the Republican national convention will be required to vote for the caucus winner, no matter who wins Montana’s June primary.
So how does a grassroots campaign win an election that is decided by party insiders?
Paul’s Montana campaign organizer, Kalispell resident David Hart, says he’s pondered that question. His answer, so far, has been to get some of Montana’s elected officials, including Sen. Jerry O’Neil, and state Reps. Rick Jore, Craig Witte and Roger Koopman, to endorse Paul.
Iverson seems to think Paul’s got a chance.
“He’s struck a chord with some folks in Montana,” he says.