I spent part of the morning at the Republican state convention in Missoula, talking with statewide candidates and other GOP leaders. One of the things I wanted to know was what party leaders think of the idea that some candidates--from John McCain on down to GOP state legislators--aren't "Republican" enough.
On the subject of the presidential race, former U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (wearing a McCain button) only said that both the Democratic and Republican parties had "the most diverse groups of people running...than we've seen in many, many years. People coming from different positions and taking different positions." In other words, diversity is good. (Even if Republicans have to hold their nose when they vote.) Then, without mentioning McCain, he said the next president will be a Republican who will follow the party platform and "stay within the Republican bounds." One wonders if there will be an effort to force McCain either to step to the right or else yield to someone else who will.
In the race for U.S. Senate, GOP primary winner Bob Kelleher was relegated to a meeting room for an hour Friday afternoon, while second-place finisher Mike Lange was given a table and wall space in the lobby to promote his write-in campaign. That's a pretty clear message.
Finally, I asked House Speaker Scott Sales (R-Bozeman) if he was taking a position on fellow Bozeman Republican Roger Koopman's successful efforts to unseat a trio of GOP legislators considered too liberal. Sales said "absolutely not" and said the party has always had people who fit on different parts of the political spectrum. But when I asked about the need to groom new leaders in the legislature, he specifically mentioned two of the GOP challengers who unseated the "liberal" incumbents, saying they had potential for leadership.