If there’s any kind of anti-Ron Paul rift within the Grand Ole Party, it certainly didn’t show during his address to nearly 500 Republicans gathered Friday night for their annual state convention at the Hilton Garden Inn. Even as Paul’s would-be delegates were shut out of the national convention—all 22 delegates went to presumptive nominee John McCain—Paul himself drew a warm, if not overwhelming response.
Part of Paul’s appeal may have been an hour of mind-numbing speeches from state candidates and party has-beens. “The constitutional rock ’n’ roll revolution is here,” said attorney general candidate Tim Fox in his warm-up speech, which included references to Christian rock mosh pits and Rolling Stones records. U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns later took the stage in a net-back ball cap alongside a crew of party staffers to auction off a ski vacation and a large Western painting.
Once the pre-show ended, Paul’s message seemed to finally bring the room’s attention to the podium.
“A lot of other states wouldn’t even have me, so I’m honored,” Paul said, leading off a speech that rallied around fiscal policy, federal powers and America’s role in history. “It’s time we come back to our fundamental beliefs in limited government and a balanced budget.”
Before his speech, Paul explained to the Independent that he’s received a positive welcome from the state party, and he singled out Rep. Dennis Rehberg for offering an “open door policy.” Paul also feels his message is a natural fit for libertarian-minded Montanans, who share many political sympathies with folks in his home state.
“They’re independent minded, and they value self-reliance,” said the Texas Congressman. “That spirit may be even better here in Montana than in Texas, where they have drifted into supporting the Bush administration. People here and there have more interest in getting financial independence instead of handouts. Most rural states are like that.”
Yet while he appreciates the hospitality and political kinship, Paul entertains no illusions about the delegate vote.
“We’ve been more included here than ever before,” he said. “But we know what the votes are.”