February 12, 2012

Maine Republicans choose Romney

But Texas Rep. Ron Paul finishes a close second in GOP caucuses Saturday.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Mitt Romney won the Maine Republican caucuses Saturday, overcoming a strong challenge by Ron Paul that drew national attention to the normally low-key contest.

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Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, speaks Saturday during the Portland Republican City Committee Caucus at Riverton Elementary School. The candidate added to his delegate count with a victory in Maine.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

20120211_RonPaul2
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Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican presidential candidate, tosses balloons to supporters Saturday night at the Seasons Event and Conference Center in Portland. Paul came in second to GOP rival Mitt Romney in the Maine GOP’s nonbinding preference poll.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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PDF: Town-by-town voting results

RESULTS OF CAUCUSES

Maine’s GOP caucuses are the first step in the selection of the state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention. The vote is a nonbinding preference poll.

There were 5,585 votes cast in the caucuses, with 61 write-ins. Here is a selection of regional results, with a look at some of the municipalities won by the contenders:

Mitt Romney won 39 percent, or 2,190 votes, with victories in Sanford, Brunswick and Augusta.

Ron Paul won 36 percent, or 1,996 votes, with wins in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor.

Rick Santorum had 18 percent, or 989 votes.

Newt Gingrich had 6 percent, or 349 votes.

 

ABOUT MAINE'S GOP CAUCUSES

Maine’s Republican caucuses, a series of meetings held in community centers and school cafeterias across the state over the past seven days, are the first step in the selection of the state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention.

The vote is a nonbinding preference poll, although the state’s delegates typically follow the wishes of party members – as long as the favored candidates are still in the race at convention time.

Maine’s Republicans control a total of 24 delegates to the national convention. Twenty-one of them will be formally chosen at the state GOP convention in May based on the caucus results, and the other three delegates are party officials.

Nationally, a candidate needs 1,144 to capture the GOP nomination.

Not all Maine Republicans had an opportunity to influence the vote announced Saturday, in part because a snowstorm delayed caucuses in Washington County.

A small number of caucuses will be held next week, but the results will not change the official poll results, party officials said.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, got 39 percent of the votes cast in meetings held around the state during the past week.

Paul, the conservative Texas congressman, came in a close second with 36 percent, his best showing in the primary season.

Rick Santorum got 18 percent and Newt Gingrich got 6 percent.

The caucus vote is a non-binding poll of the state’s Republicans, the first step in choosing delegates for the party’s national convention.  

But it was seen as an important win for Romney, who ended a three-state losing streak.

Romney left Maine after campaign appearances Saturday morning, and issued a statement thanking the state’s voters for the support.

“The voters of Maine have sent a clear message that it is past time to send an outsider to the White House, a conservative with a lifetime of experience in the private sector, who can uproot Washington’s culture of taxing and spending and borrowing and endless bureaucracy,” Romney said.

Paul, meanwhile, was in Portland with supporters when the results were announced.

A couple of hundred Paul supporters booed in unison when Romney was announced the winner at the Seasons Event and Conference Center. But the dismay turned to cheers when Paul took to the stage and touted his close second-place finish.

“The revolution is only beginning,” Paul said. “It’s almost like we could call it a tie.”

Maine’s Republican caucuses culminated Saturday under a bright national spotlight.

Romney, the front-runner in the national delegate count, wanted to regain momentum after losing three contests last week. Paul worked hard to win his first state, visiting Maine twice and firing up young, energetic supporters who flocked to the caucuses.

Both Romney and Paul rallied supporters in southern and central Maine on Saturday, the first time in memory two presidential candidates campaigned here on the same day.

Romney also won Maine’s caucuses four years ago, topping Paul and Sen. John McCain, the eventual nominee.

It was a clear two-man race this year.

Paul supporters, energized by his visit here two weeks ago, surprised party regulars by dominating caucuses in some communities. 

Romney, meanwhile, arrived in Maine on Friday for the final day of the caucuses and took to the airwaves, buying television and radio ads urging Republicans to participate.

Neither Gingrich nor Santorum, who defeated Romney in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado on Tuesday, actively campaigned in Maine.

The personal campaigning by Romney and Paul and the national stakes of the vote generated unprecedented interest in Maine, as well as nationally.

“Maine Republicans broke caucus attendance records from Fort Kent to Kittery,” Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said Saturday evening as party leaders gathered at Portland’s Regency Hotel to announce the caucus results.

The energy generated by the caucuses will help the Republicans defeat President Obama in the fall, as well as win seats in Congress and the Maine Legislature, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Saturday.

“There’s so much excitement in the air, you can feel it everywhere,” Collins said.

In Biddeford, nearly 80 voters attended the Saturday morning caucus, nearly twice as many as the previous attendance record – 43.

Corey and Alicia Larochelle went to the Biddeford caucus – their first – to support Paul. The candidate’s libertarian views and straightforward message appeal to young people, they said.

“It’s all about freedom to me. He’s kind of a modern day Thomas Jefferson,” said Corey Larochelle, a 26-year-old carpenter.

Matt Stone, a 24-year-old who has worked on political campaigns, went to Biddeford’s caucus to support Romney.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Supporters of Mitt Romney cheer Saturday as their candidate is introduced during the Portland Republican City Committee Caucus at Riverton Elementary School in Portland.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Glenn Strout of Portland holds a sign in support of Texas Rep. Ron Paul before a speech by GOP rival Mitt Romney during the Portland Republican City Committee Caucus on Saturday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Rick Santorum
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Rick Santorum: 18 percent

AP

Newt Gingrich
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Newt Gingrich: 6 percent

AP

  


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