Maine Republicans are gearing up for this state's presidential caucuses, scheduled for February 4-11 this year. Two things happen at the caucuses, which take place throughout the state (Portland's is on the 11th, at 9:30 am, at the Riverton School): first, delegates are elected to represent caucusgoers at the state convention, which will happen on May 5 and 6 at the Augusta Civic Center; second, the "presidential preference ballot" is given to the individuals who attend. Here, state conservatives will indicate their favorites from among an ever-dwindling pool of Republican presidential candidates that includes Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich.
The results of this straw poll will be announced at the Portland Regency Hotel on the evening of the 11th, turning the national spotlight toward Maine, which is the only state to broadcast its primary results on that day. By that point, only a handful of additional states will have trumpeted their own results (and so-called "Super Tuesday," when 10 states hold their primaries or caucuses, isn't until March 6).
When 76-year-old Ron Paul came in second place in New Hampshire on January 10 (getting 23 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney's 39), it raised the question: can he repeat the feat in nearby Maine, which holds sympathetic views on individual liberties and freedoms?
Grassroots supporters hope so. An email on Tuesday from the "RonPaulCountry.com Team" called on local Paul supporters to attend the Cumberland County GOP meeting that night, to help "steer the GOP into the Era of 'Ron Paul Republicans'." After good showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, "he is surging in South Carolina and I think an upset is in the works," the email read.
Maine's state chairman for the Paul campaign, Paul Madore, referred all inquires to the national campaign, which we were not able to reach before deadline.
It is worth noting that both Madore and Mainer Mike Heath, who worked as Paul's Iowa state director and is currently helping with outreach in South Carolina, are both hardcore religious conservatives who oppose gay and reproductive rights. Madore is director of the Maine Grassroots Coalition, which protests abortion and gay marriage; Heath is the former executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine and currently serves as board chairman of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, a group as scary as it sounds.
(Paul's website proclaims that as president, the former obstetrician would repeal Roe v. Wade and pass a "Sanctity of Life Act;" regarding same-sex unions, he opposes all federal efforts to define marriage and is wary even of states' rights to do so.)
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won in this caucus state four years ago, despite the fact that US senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe both endorsed his opponent, John McCain.
"I think that Maine will probably go the way of New Hampshire in the caucuses and have a similar outcome," senate candidate Andrew Ian Dodge, who is a Tea Party leader in Maine, wrote in an email. "The Ron Paul supporters are boisterous (as they are everywhere) but not sure how strong they are in numbers. What will be interesting is to see how well (or not) Gingrich does."