by Thomas R. Eddlem
Washington County, Maine — Texas Congressman Ron Paul won strong victories in rural Maine caucuses February 18, but the Saturday caucuses do not quite appear to have lifted Paul to victory statewide over his chief rival, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. But there are new questions about some of the vote tallies in the updated Maine GOP count, especially where the results for the Portland caucus were reversed in favor of Romney.
The official tally for Washington County — a rural Maine county that had postponed its scheduled February 11 caucuses because of snow — showed 163 votes for Paul, 80 for Romney, 57 for Santorum, and three for Gingrich. Neither Gingrich nor Santorum had an official campaign presence at the caucuses in Maine.
The two-to-one Paul victory over Romney in Washington County alone won’t put Paul over the top statewide, however. According to the Paul campaign, the Texas congressman and obstetrician also picked up 39 votes in caucuses in neighboring Hancock County and a handful of other area caucuses February 18. A number of other towns were caucusing February 18 as well, but by the Paul campaign’s count at 5:00 p.m. they were still 84 votes short after counting Hancock and Washington Counties. The Bangor Daily News put Romney’s margin of victory at 117 votes.
Paul campaign state chairman Paul B. Madore told The New American it was “unlikely” the Paul campaign would come out of the non-binding presidential preference poll with the most votes if current GOP numbers stand. The Republican Party declared Romney the winner after the February 11 caucuses by less than 200 votes, even though Washington, much of Hancock County, and a dozen or so other towns across the state had yet to caucus. Moreover, Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster ran into angry Paul campaign officials after they had found out that several towns that had voted in favor of Paul, such as Belfast, did not have their results published on the official party list. Webster vowed not to update the list, but bowed to a barrage of criticism from party leaders across the state and released updated numbers February 17. The revised results released by the Maine GOP before Saturday’s caucuses showed a larger 229-vote margin of victory for Romney.
When The New American asked Madore about the revision in the Portland caucus numbers, Madore became upset. “This really disturbs me, when I see numbers like this,” he said. In Portland, the state GOP reported February 11 that Paul had won the caucus by a vote of 106 to 91. But in the February 17 revision, Romney had won the state’s largest city, by an identical 106 to 91 vote. Moreover, the revised numbers appear not to have taken any votes away from Romney in any town, except for a single vote from Hancock’s Verona Island. (In the same county, Romney lost five votes in Bar Harbor, but it’s possible that in the February 17 revision those “lost” votes were moved to nearby Trenton, where Romney gained five votes.) Paul, on the other hand, not only lost 15 votes in Portland, he also lost every single one of the 20 votes he had garnered in York County’s Limington according to the results the state GOP initially reported on February 11.
The mood at the Washington County caucus Saturday was symbolized by the lapel sticker “You WILL count me” that members of all the campaigns were wearing. The stickers were a clear reaction to Webster’s claim a week earlier that he would not update the results. “They’re hurting themselves if they don’t have Washington County counted,” Madore told The New American.
Both the Paul and Romney campaigns touted the turnout in Washington County, which was a significant increase over the 2008 numbers. “The story is the record number of people here,” Romney staffer Greg Gallivan told The New American. “There’s a good turnout, a strong turnout,” Madore agreed. “That’s a job well done.”
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