Is the non-binding caucus race and straw (preference?) poll in Maine after a Saturday-Saturday run of compiling votes finished? Well, not really. There are still more caucuses to go and the true winner (the one who actually gets the delegates) won’t be decided until the Republican National Convention in August. So, for what it’s worth…may I have the envelope please? The winner for the time being is…Mitt Romney with 39% of the vote. Coming in 2nd, the inestimable Ron Paul at a respectable 36%, by far his highest total of the primary season and a great improvement from last time around, but still not at the top of the heap. In 2008, the count was Romney 51%, Paul, 18%.
One caveat; the entire process is a maze of dates, rules, political subdivisions and confusing delegate assignments. I’m not sure if Maine’s results mean anything definitive since the state’s Republican Party Chairman, Charlie Webster, described Saturday’s action as a ‘preference’ poll, not the final selection of delegates. That’s why so few voters showed up.
Romney’s faux win, if not terribly persuasive, was not unexpected. He made numerous stops during the caucus meetings and was already respected by party higher-ups for having stumped for various Maine Republican candidates over the years. Paul also criss-crossed the state and picked up votes from his usual supercharged base and the Libertarian tendencies of many of Maine’s voters. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich showed little interest in Maine. Voters, in turn, showed little interest in Rick and Newt by giving Santorum 18% of the total while Gingrich stunk the joint out with a meager 6% tally.
Santorum went from the proverbial penthouse of the Feburary 7th sweep to the outhouse of a less than 20% showing in Maine. Momentum to slowmentum. Gingrich continued to command less and less attention as he targets Super Tuesday.
There was a pouty moment of Paul candor in speaking to supporters about the national debt. “That debt is mine and I’m going to be the one paying higher taxes to address it.” The nerve. Asking somebody worth at least 5 million to chip in a little extra for his country.
The week’s results were announced from the Portland Regency hotel that once housed the Maine National Guard. Sadly, that’s no longer the case. If it were, bellicose Republican warmongers could have gone directly from the Regency to Iran.
In hindsight, the Regency might have been the wrong choice for such widespread exposure of the party. On the hotel homepage a guest recently wrote that the Regency “Reminds me of hotels I’ve stayed in during European trips.” Oh my GAWD! European? Obama! Socialist! Note to Republican power structure…always read the guest reviews before booking your announcement venue.
Though there are but a handful of minorities in Maine, it is considered a ‘blue’ state and Obama claimed 57% of the 2008 presidential vote. Maine is represented in the Senate by two endangered species; moderate and reasonable Republicans. Senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe both supported the Obama stimulus plan and Collins and Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill co-sponsored a tax break bill that Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell renounced in strong terms, so you know it had to be damn good.
In the grand GOP scheme of things, Maine, smaller than at least U.S. six cities, will have but one more brief twinkle before the world’s media as the dolled-up leader of its convention delegation stands up and grandly announces – “The Pine Tree state of Maine, known for it’s beautiful lighthouses and being the home of the world’s largest toothpick factory, awards its 24 votes to… ” By that time they should have it figured out.
For the perpetual motion candidates, it’s onward to three weeks of debating, campaigning, fund-raising and primaries as Newt Gingrich will re-enter the picture with forensic guns blazing with three scheduled debates in the near-offing beginning with a CNN broadcast debate in Mesa, Arizona on Ash Wednesday, February 22nd.
Audience reaction should give us a clue as to whether Newt still matters and whether Romney’s embarrassing prostrating at the just-shuttered, white-sheeted Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) had the desired effect of converting Santorum voters. Romney reached out to the CPAC audience and said in effect… ”I AM an extremist right-winger who wants to send your kids to yet another war, destroy education, health care, social security and the federal government. Oh, why can’t you believe me???”
They apparently did. Romney won both the CPAC straw poll and the CPAC national poll.
The Michigan and Arizona primaries fall on Tuesday, February 28. In these two states, candidates must try to impress the right-wing gentry headed by two really unpleasant governors; Michigan’s corporate-owned Koch whore, Rick Snyder, who has been ducking repeated recall efforts and everybody’s favorite addle-brained, brown-skin hating, Jan Brewer, whose legislative minions have been busy flooding the Arizona senate floor with no fewer than 4 bills killing collective bargaining rights for pubic sector workers. Brewer is another recall target. Unlike Snyder, these efforts are alive and well.
A couple of more debates are squeezed in before Super Tuesday, March 6, a date that, protestations to the contrary, will likely make or break the Gingrich campaign. Let me repeat once more, this whole presidential primary/caucus thing is a moot exercise for Republicans. Nobody in this current crop of candidates comes within 10 percentage points of Obama – and that’s being generous.