By Brian Doherty
You have probably heard over the weekend that Mitt Romney won the nonbinding straw poll that arose from Maine's caucuses over the past week (or so), 39 to Ron Paul's 36, despite some hopes expressed by Paul's fans and campaigns he could win the poll outright.
Well, maybe. Some good old fashioned complications in the narrative from the world around Ron Paul:
*First, those results are nonbinding; the delegate selection process won't be finished until May. Even if things fall our roughly proportionately, that still, according to the very useful Greenpapers, will have Romney and Paul each snatching 8 of the state's 24 delegates.
*But Paul's campaign is confident that they will do far better than proportional, and that they will "control the Maine delegation" as per this press release:
Paul performed well throughout the state, although his campaign’s stronghold of Washington County did not report today for inexplicable reasons. Congressman Paul was barely bested by Gov. Romney by about 194 votes, a margin the campaign is confident it will make up with the 200 plus votes expected to come out of Washington County’s caucus.
“Today’s results show once again that Congressman Paul’s campaign for liberty and a return to Constitutional principles is strong and growing,” said Ron Paul 2012 National Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton. “We are confident that we will control the Maine delegation for the convention in August. Our campaign is so thankful to all of our supporters in Maine, and all over the nation, and we want them to know that we plan to take this message all the way to the White House.”
*More on the mystery of Washington County's caucus, from the Portland Press Herald:
The Paul campaign says a local caucus meeting in Washington County that was canceled Saturday afternoon because of a snowstorm would have provided the margin of victory over Romney.
But Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster is standing behind the results showing that Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, won the nonbinding presidential straw poll by 194 votes.
Washington County GOP Chairman Chris Gardner says he is pushing for his county’s votes to be counted next weekend, but conceded that it seems improbable those votes could provide Paul what he needs to overcome Romney’s statewide lead.
Still, “The people of Washington County, they certainly deserve to have their votes counted,” said Gardner. “We are going to proceed and we will push to have our votes counted."...
The Paul campaign also cried foul.
“In Washington County – where Ron Paul was incredibly strong – the caucus was delayed until next week just so the votes wouldn’t be reported by the national media today,” said John Tate, Paul’s campaign manager, in a statement late Saturday night. Tate dismissed the rationale that the caucus had to be canceled due to snow, saying the weather wasn’t that bad.
“The votes of Washington County would have been enough to put us over the top,” he said....
That would have been a great media victory--"frontrunner" Romney bested again, this time, for the first time, by Ron Paul--but again, nonbinding on the actual eventual delegates voting for candidates in Tampa later this year. John Tate's full comments on the Washington County non-count.
*Nate Silver at New York Times runs the numbers on the meaning of Washington County to the possible final straw poll results, and says Paul would have to pull out an Iowa-level turnout miracle of his folk to sway the outcome:
All if this will be moot unless Mr. Paul is able to make up 194 votes in the county.
Based on how the county voted in 2008, that seems unlikely. Just 113 votes total were cast in the county in 2008, and only 8 of those were for Mr. Paul. John McCain, instead, won the plurality.
In addition, Mr. Romney narrowly won the two counties, Hancock and Penobscot, that border Washington County to the west and which are probably the best demographic match for it — although Mr. Paul won sparsely-populated Aroostook County, which borders it to the north, where he took 81 votes to Mr. Romney’s 26.
However, Washington County might theoretically have some untapped potential for Mr. Paul. It is rural and relatively poor — demographics that tend to suit him more than Mr. Romney. And it is relatively conservative, having split its vote about evenly between Barack Obama and Mr. McCain in 2008 when Mr. Obama won Maine as a whole fairly easily.
What such an outcome would require is for Mr. Paul’s campaign to make a concerted effort to turn out any supporters it has in the area. There are 6,907 registered Republicans in Washington County, and another 8,247 unaffiliated registered voters, who are eligible to participate by changing their registration to Republican at the caucus site. Unregistered voters, for that matter, are also free to participate provided that they register at the caucus site.
Imagine, for instance, that voters turned out in the county at a rate comparable the Iowa caucuses, where Mr. Paul had a strong turnout operation. In Iowa, 122,255 Republicans participated in the caucuses as compared to a total of 644,220 voters who were registered as Republican prior to caucus night.
Were turnout in Washington County to occur at the Iowa rate, it would produce about 1,300 participants at the caucuses, enough to swing the outcome if Mr. Paul received about 15 percent more of their votes than Mr. Romney.
*The Bangor Daily News on some delegate voting discrepencies in Portland.
*Waldo County, which held its caucus the week before, also had its votes not counted, organizerRaymond St. Onge explains, and says Paul won there, edging out Santorum by two votes.
*U.S. News and World Report on Paul's disappointment:
"You know, we were a little bit disappointed last night," theTexas congressman told CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday, hours after losing Maine. "We did very well up there. But we're going to continue to do what we do, and do the very best and keep accumulating delegates."
He declined to criticize Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, but did throw some zingers at the other two candidates in the GOP presidential race, former House SpeakerNewt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
"Their records are far from being conservative," Paul said.
*Although CPAC was Ron Paul-less, the head of the American Conservative Union tells theWashington Times they can't ignore him:
“It would be a dramatic error for the winning campaign to disavow Ron Paul’s contributions to the process,” said Al Cardenas, chairman of theAmerican Conservative Union, which hosted the CPAC gathering. “I am a firm believer that Ron Paul has found a niche and found a movement that he wants to have a voice. It may not be a majority movement, but it’s a growing movement. So, if we are smart, he’s going to have his fair opportunity at convention, and a platform committee to have his points of views discussed and expressed.
He added, “Any winning campaign of the nomination, if it is not his, should embrace him and his followers if we are going to win in November.”...
David Keene, former ACU chairman, said the party’s slow embrace of Paul supporters reminded him of how Republicans were reluctant to welcome the evangelicals who followed Pat Robertson into the political fray during his 1988 presidential bid. In one instance, Mr. Keene recalled, a national committeeman likened attending a Robertson campaign meeting to “the bar scene in ‘Star Wars.’ “
“Party leaders, like the leader of any club, love to have your dues, or your vote in this case, but they really don’t want you hanging around voting for the offices or the leadership,” Mr. Keene said. “[Evangelicals] came in, they were attracted by Pat Robertson, who couldn’t get nominated, but attracted hundreds of thousands of millions of people. Some of those people went home because they were just attracted to him, as will some of the Paul people, and some of them stuck around, and today a lot of them are leaders in the party.”
My forthcoming book, Ron Paul's Revolution.