So will the Maine caucus mean anything?
posted at 10:20 am on February 11, 2012 by Jazz Shaw
The rather unusually structured Maine caucus will come to an end this evening. Sort of. (More on that below.) So how much of an impact is this going to have on the race? The media is certainly making a spirited effort to pump up the volume.
Shaken by a string of failures, Romney is hoping to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat Saturday on the path to his party’s nomination.
The former Massachusetts governor has stepped up efforts to court local Republicans in recent days, reflecting growing concern over feisty GOP rival Ron Paul in what has essentially become a two-man race here. Neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum, who defeated Romney in contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado on Tuesday, are actively competing in Maine.
There’s a tempting narrative being shopped around on the cable networks as to how Maine has suddenly become a “must win” contest for Mitt Romney, but that seems largely like a water cooler discussion for hard boiled political geeks concerned with things like momentum. Yes, it would be nice for Mitt to snap a losing streak after his zero for three showing on Tuesday, but we’re talking about a small number of delegates (24) none of whom will actually be awarded tonight. The next real, meaningful action for Romney will come on Feb. 28th in Arizona and Michigan.
The person with the most to gain – or possibly lose – is Ron Paul. This race has elicited so little media attention that there isn’t even any reliable polling coming out of the state, but there are rumors circulating that Paul could come in first. This would be somewhat embarrassing to Romney to be sure, but it would also be a big feather in the Texas congressman’s cap, showing that he’s at least capable of winning something. Plus, it would continue to make the 2012 race a record breaker, with all four of the remaining major contenders having won an election in the first
8 *9* outings.
But win or lose, the impact may be a bit muted by the odd structure of Maine’s system, described as “a lazy caucus.”
The state’s Republican Party requested that Maine’s counties and municipalities hold their caucus events sometime between Feb. 4 and Feb. 11. The majority of the state’s events have been slated for Feb. 11, but a couple of towns have already caucused.
Though Democrats have carried the state in recent presidential elections, Maine is very much a “purple state.” It has two Republican senators and a Republican governor, and their two House reps are Democrats. Mainers pride themselves on their political independence, which makes Ron Paul a popular candidate.
The caucus is technically “closed,” in that only registered Republicans can vote in it. But it’s also rather loose in some senses, since independent, unaffiliated voters can register as Republicans on the day they go down to vote. (Not so for Democrats, though.) This allows for a flood of independents to participate. (Though “flood” may not be a particularly apt description, since not even 5,500 people voted here in 2008.) That may or may not work to Ron Paul’s benefit, though he’s spent a lot more time on the ground than Romney.
The results are currently expected to be announced around 7:30 PM local time. CNN will have a reporter on the ground and NBC will cover it also, according to Politico.
EDIT: (Jazz) Nine states, not eight. Sadly, I had my shoes on and couldn’t count that high.
Breaking on Hot Air