USA 2012: Maine caucuses

While Nevada and then Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri voted; Maine held week-long Republican caucuses kicking off on February 4 and ending on February 11. As in most caucuses, these are but straw polls which do not directly affect the allocation of delegates – those are apparently decided in May. Some areas of Maine decided to hold their non-binding straw polls before or after this week-long process, but their results are not counted in the results of this week-long caucus.

Some of these municipal caucuses were held after Rick Santorum’s 3-state sweep on February 6. Santorum’s come-from-behind wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri likely sent a shiver down Mitt Romney’s spine, as it shook the (formerly?) likely nominee from his position as frontrunner. Since his wins on February 6, a new strings of polls have shown that Santorum has surged into first place nationally, while Newt Gingrich is in a state of near-collapse. That Santorum would surge nationally was quite obvious, but Santorum needs to hold his momentum until the next major primaries in Michigan and Arizona on February 28. Santorum seems ready to concede Arizona to Romney for now (it is a fairly favourable state for Romney) but is taking on Romney head-on in Romney’s second home-state of Michigan. In a ominous sign for Gingrich, polls have also shown Santorum gaining or even first in a number of Super Tuesday Southern primaries, which were supposed to be Gingrich’s lifeline.

As for Maine, nobody cared besides Ron Paul, still looking for a win, and Mitt Romney who woke up late realizing that he might lose Maine, which he had won with 52% in 2008, to Paul. Maine’s Republican caucus-goers tend to be much more conservative than other New England GOP voters. In 2000, George W. Bush won Maine (which held primaries then) while losing every other New England state to John McCain. Of course, the Bush family, which vacations in Kennebunkport, has always had a built-in advantage with the Maine GOP. In 2008, Mitt Romney, as the conservative alternative to John McCain, won Maine’s off-the-map caucuses with 52% against 21% for McCain and 18.4% for Ron Paul.

Maine has an independent, against the grain streak which even beats that of Vermont and equals that of Alaska. It elected independent governors, most recently Angus King. It was Ross Perot’s best state in 1992, giving him 30% of the vote and a second place showing. Its congressional delegation includes two more or less standard-fare liberal Democrats in the House, two famous moderate Republican Senators. But in 2010, Maine elected Paul LePage, a Tea Party-backed candidate, to the Governor’s Mansion. Since 2010 (or even before), the Maine Republican Party seems to have been taken over by the right-wing of the GOP.

The results were announced in one batch on February 11, but does not include the bulk of results from Washington County where the votes were delayed due to snow.

Mitt Romney 39.21%
Ron Paul 35.74%
Rick Santorum 17.71%
Newt Gingrich 6.25%
Others 1.09%

Results of the ME caucuses (source: uselectionatlas)

Mitt Romney was able to pull off a rather narrow victory, in spite of early reports (from the Paul camp, fair enough) which indicated results rather favourable to Ron Paul. Not that it matters all that much, given that few people actually cared all that much about Maine and its results are unlikely to give Romney any type of momentum. Mitt Romney performed about 13% worst than in 2008, which indicates Romney’s new problem with caucuses whose participants are overwhelmingly conservative. At the same time, Ron Paul performed about 17% better than in 2008. Maine was Ron Paul’s best chance for win in all the states which have voted thus far, but he was ultimately unable to pull off a win. His other chances for a win are probably Montana, Washington, Alaska and North Dakota; but can he actually win a state, even with a strong GOTV operation on the ground and motivated supporters willing to turn out?

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich did not campaign in Maine, but Santorum still did fairly well without any campaigning. Perhaps if Rick Santorum had put a bit of an effort in Maine, he could have made this a real three-way contest.

The Maine GOP released county and township results, which appear to be incomplete in parts. It only includes ten votes cast in a single town in Washington County, while counties such as Waldo (90 votes) or Aroostook (137 votes) appear to have reported either partial results (I know some parts of Aroostook voted before February 4) or that turnout was really low. The county map looks random, the town map looks both random and empty.

Mitt Romney’s victory was won in Cumberland County, Maine’s most populous county which cast 1,552 votes. While Ron Paul won Portland, Maine’s largest city, Mitt Romney dominated in the affluent coastal suburbs/resorts including Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Freeport and Harpswell. Romney also performed well in other affluent coastal resort communities including York Beach, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Boothbay Harbor, Camden, Rockport and Bar Harbor. At the same time, in less affluent or perhaps more hippie resort areas such as Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach, Thomaston and Vinalhaven, Ron Paul came out ahead.

Ron Paul also seems to have performed well in the more conservative inland regions, but at the same time he did quite poorly in backwoods Somerset, Franklin and Oxford Counties. Ron Paul’s best showing was in Aroostook County, which he had won in 2008 and which he won this year with 59% this year. But looking at a town map, Aroostook has reported results from only a handful of towns. The heavily Democratic French-Canadian townships of the Madawaska River Valley has basically no results. Aroostook, like Coos County in New Hampshire, seems to be natural Ron Paul territory. It is isolated, conservative but with a fairly independent or libertarian streak. Ron Paul did well in the college towns of Orono and Farmington, but at the same time lost larger college towns such as Gorham or Augusta.

Maine is a fairly working-class state, an element hardly apparent to out-of-state summer vacationers. There seems to be little consistency in results between Maine’s various working-class mill towns. Ron Paul won Lewiston and Auburn, in Androscoggin County, while Rick Santorum performed well in small mill towns in Somerset County. Santorum also performed well in Androscoggin County (26%), which, as Catholic working-class territory, seems to be fairly strong territory for Santorum. In York County, Mitt Romney won Saco and Sanford, but Paul won in Biddeford. Finally, no caucus seems to have been held in Waterville.

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Posted on February 12, 2012, in Maine, Primaries, leadership contests or internal party votes, U.S.A.. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. You capture the events of the primary really well.

  2. Actually, I believe the Waterville caucus was a while back, not on the 11th. But shouldn’t it have been reported anyhow?

  3. I haven’t found any explanation for Waterville. The ME GOP (http://www.mainegop.com/2012/02/kennebec-and-piscataquis-counties-report-heavy-caucus-turnout/) says Rome votes on Feb 18, while this blog post from Freep (http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2843908/posts) says that Waterville didn’t hold caucuses. Still, if Waterville voted before or votes after Feb 4-11, then it’s not included in the reported results.

  4. I was at the Waterville caucus on Feb. 4th. It was overwhelmingly Paul. I read the results were not called into the GOP in time. Go figure. They had a damn week to do it!!!

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