Weeklong GOP caucuses resume
AUGUSTA — Maine’s Republican caucuses resumed Sunday with Mitt Romney and Ron Paul remaining the leading candidates, but pockets of support also appearing for the other two presidential contenders.
The caucuses won’t conclude until next weekend, when the winner of what is essentially a presidential preference straw poll will be announced in Portland. The caucuses are the first step toward awarding Maine’s 24 delegates to the party’s national convention.
More than half of Maine’s GOP municipal caucuses were held this weekend, including several countywide gatherings Saturday. On Sunday, Piscataquis County towns gathered in Dover-Foxcroft, while a number of other towns, including Cumberland, Freeport, Westbrook, Andover, Hanover, Garland and York, were holding theirs.
Sunday’s Maine caucuses came a day after Romney added to his lead in the race for delegates with a big win in Nevada’s GOP caucuses. Minnesota and Colorado hold contests on Tuesday, the same day as a non-binding primary in Missouri.
In Maine’s Piscataquis County, the only New England county that did not vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, speakers for three of the four candidates — Romney, Paul and Newt Gingrich — had been lined up for Sunday’s gathering, said county Chairman Andy Torbett. But the fourth candidate, Rick Santorum, also has supporters in Maine.
“There are pockets of support for everybody,” state party Chair Charles Webster said. When the final votes are tallied next week, “I think it’s fair to say the race will come down to Romney and Paul,” Webster said.
Webster said he is seeing a pattern on heavy attendance at the caucuses prompted by interest in the presidential election, giving him optimism that attendance at the state party convention in May could swell from the 2,200 two years ago to 3,000 this year.
“I expect there will be a record turnout at the May convention,” Webster said.
Millinocket, for example, sent two people to the convention two years ago, but this year it will send 15.
Maine Democrats are to hold their caucuses Feb. 26.