Republican U.S. House candidate Ryan Zinke made a strong pitch for party unity in a speech at the state Republican Party convention on Saturday.

“I don’t blame Democrats for our president,” Zinke said. “I blame us. It was our fault. We as Republicans did not have a message. We did not have unity. United we stand, divided we fall. That’s what we must remember.

Zinke, a former state senator from Whitefish, won an at-times bitter, five-way primary earlier this month with 33 percent.

Two of his primary opponents, state Sens. Elsie Arntzen of Billings and Matt Rosendale of Glendive, sat at his table for the breakfast in a show of support. Zinke said he, Arntzen and Rosendale all pledged in the primary campaign to support whichever one of them who won.

He chose motivational Tammy Hall of Bozeman to introduce him. Hall said she didn’t support Zinke in the primary, and he knew it.

“But I didn’t think we could lose with the people we had running,” she said.

Hall said she now is fully behind Zinke.

“There is something about a man who has served in the Navy SEALs and served this country,” Hall said. “This man will fight for life and fight for unborn babies and his opponent won’t. This man will fight to defend our borders.”

In his talk, Zinke hit on his familiar campaign themes of easing the burden of government regulation on business and said energy independence is critical for the country.

“I’m an optimist,” Zinke said. “The gloom and doom about how America is lost and our best days are behind us, I don’t buy it.”

Zinke added, “I ask this party to go from a party of no to a party of go.”

He criticized the Obama administration for “it’s war on fossil fuels.”

Zinke later took another shot at Obama.

“I ask to join me, join the party, unify in our efforts to win the Senate, win the House and put this rascal on the run,” Zinke said.

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