To the majority of bystanders, the Maine GOP caucuses are history, a long ago and nearly forgotten win added to the Mitt Romney column.
Ron Paul supporters and critics within the state believe that the primary is very much still undecided. An view that is picking up national momentum.
A defiant Paul immediately called the caucuses a virtual tie after the official state GOP tally had the Texas Congressman behind Romney by less than 200 votes in last week’s vote. While the majority of campaign coverage has moved on to the races in Michigan and Arizona set to vote in primaries at the end of February, a growing mob of Maine journalists, Romney critics and Ron Paul fans have demanded further examination into the votes, or lack there of, in last weekend’s caucuses.
The Bangor Daily News reports that several communities still have their caucuses scheduled for later this month, and the Washington County Republican caucus had been postponed last Saturday due to the threat of inclement weather.
“Some Republicans across the state cried foul. Washington County GOP Chairman Chris Gardner, a Romney supporter, was particularly vocal over the weekend and expressed “complete and utter dismay” to party leaders that his county’s votes would not be counted.
But according to Maine GOP leaders, towns knew well ahead of time that the presidential poll results would be announced on Feb. 11, and had an opportunity to hold their caucuses before that date. Those rules were spelled out months ago, Maine Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster said.
Webster also said that even if Washington County’s votes were counted, they likely would not have swung the pendulum toward Paul. A total of 118 votes were cast in Washington County caucuses in 2008 and only eight of them went for Paul.
Still, Gardner and others are asking the party to reconsider.
‘Refusal to reconsider under those circumstances would be extremely disheartening,’ he told The Associated Press. ‘I trust that the party will make the right decision here.’”
Romney had originally been declared the winner of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation January 3 caucuses, edging out Rick Santorum by a mere eight votes. However, upon further review the state GOP declared Santorum the winner by 34 votes after accounting for votes from missing precincts on election night.
Several Republican leaders in Maine are calling on the state party to reexamine the caucuses and votes still to be cast in order confirm or retract their crowning of Romney as the state winner.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect they would include all votes. It would be a slap in the face to towns that weren’t able to caucus,” Kathy Birdsall, GOP town chair for Hancock, told the Daily News. Hayes Gahagan, Aroostook County Republican chairman and a former state senator, also pushed for a recount once all caucuses have been held.
“Aroostook County went 59 percent in favor of Ron Paul,” he said in a statement Monday. “With the statewide straw poll race so close between Gov. Romney and Congressman Paul, the Maine Republican Party should allow the remaining 16 percent of the straw votes to be counted and reported.
“Regardless of who ultimately wins, we should be conducting free and fair straw polls without succumbing to media opportunism. This is not candidate or agenda-driven; it is matter of process integrity.”
FOX 19 reports that enough fishiness has been alleged about the vote to make one question, “was the caucus fixed?”
“Saturday night, February 11, the head of the Maine GOP, Charlie Webster, announced that Governor Mitt Romney won the Maine caucus by a slim margin.
Official totals read Romney barely winning the caucus by less than 200 votes.
The only problem, the governor was declared the winner with only 84 percent of precincts counted.
Two counties, Washington County and Hancock County had not yet held their caucuses.”
Even MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow chimed in on the growing controversy, asking why three of Maine’s sixteen counties have still been ignored:
The Daily Caller reports that the Maine Republican Party has added additional votes to their tally after accidentally omitting them from Saturday’s caucus results, but have still not released the votes publicly.
“We don’t want any more drama,” state party chairman Charlie Webster told TheDC. “I’ve already got death threats and 1,800 emails.”
Webster further argued to TheDC that Paul should call it quits in Maine, saying that achieving a 200-vote margin of victory in Washington County — where only 113 voters cast ballots in the 2008 GOP race — “isn’t humanly possible.”
Given the entusiasm of Paul’s base, Webster should expect that the drama has only just begun.