As time draws closer to Election Day, it becomes increasingly clear that 2012 will not be a repeat of the 2008 presidential election. The likelihood of President Obama winning by a significant margin is slim-to-none. This does not mean he cannot lose, it’s very possible. Either way, this will be a very close election. One of the more intriguing storylines is the battle over Maine Congressional District #2, which could offer former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney an unexpected victory. Maine, like Nebraska, awards an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. Many Republicans believe that Maine’s second congressional district could offer Romney a victory and are working hard to ensure it happens.
As Andy Sullivan of Reuters notes in his October 30th article titled, “Could blueberry state Maine be a slice of Romney’s presidential pie?”, there is optimism in the Maine Republican Party, who have been aggressive in their attempts to secure victory in November. Party communications director David Sorensen believes it is “very likely”. Sullivan also writes:
Although winning just one electoral vote in northern Maine is still a longshot, Maine Republicans are optimistic about Romney’s chances. They point to a private poll that found Romney leading Obama by 5 percentage points in the northern part of the state earlier this month, even though he trailed Obama in the state as a whole.
It’s generally agreed upon that it is a competitive district. Whether or not Romney has a five point lead on President Obama can be debated, but it’s certainly possible. It’s not surprising given the fact that President Obama has not followed through on various campaign promises, notably when it comes to foreign policy, disappointing the anti-war left and left-libertarians who leaned on him in 2008. In some ways, there is some surprise given all the troubles the Maine Republican Party have had in the last year.
Two years ago, the Tea Party movement saved a party that had been crippled in 2008 by a crushing blow by the Democrats. Since then, the Republican establishment has seized control of the gains and attempted to centralize the grassroots. Last year, the Ron Paul campaign and grassroots supporters made it clear their strategy was to utilize the delegate process for the nomination. Come the caucuses, it was proven they were not bluffing. The War of 2012 began here, with the votes of the Ron Paul-strong “Where’s Waldo” county getting lost in an inbox, according to Party chairman Charlie Webster. The “wing nuts”, as he would later call them, also took a blow when Washington County’s caucuses were delayed past the straw poll deadline, due to debatable weather conditions. Instead of being a leader sympathetic to the hard work the internal grassroots was doing for their respective candidates, Webster became an attack dog barking at those who dare question the obvious problems.
The convention was a heated battle which saw the Ron Paul supporters winning, as they successfully turned out more delegates than the establishment. Among the victories that contentious weekend was the National Delegation, which would become a tug-of-war match months down the road. Ousted National Comitteewoman Jan Staples and Romney campaign State Chairman Peter Cianchette would create the greatest divide yet for the party, launching a last minute delegation challenge against their own party members. With mere months remaining until Cianchette’s job as Maine Romney campaign chair (which includes CD-2) would be judged, this was a bad decision. In order to win, Romney needs unity, not internal destruction.
Why is this relevant? Because the libertarian wing of the Republican Party has proven to be much larger and more influential than most would ever have previously given it credit for. Over a thousand delegates turned out for Ron Paul at the State Convention, representing the votes of many more individuals from back at the February caucuses. The support base is significant and in a close general election, every single vote matters. Instead of reaching out to these individuals and attempt to draw them over, the State party leadership has instead opted to make problems worse and further alienate people. Many are holding out, because they feel personally attacked by a party leadership that has no appreciation for hard work the grassroots does.
Another more recent problem presenting itself, is the lack of Romney signs available to individuals. A number of grassroots activists within the Republican Party have questioned why the Romney campaign has not invested in Maine like they should be, given how close CD-2 and the entire country will be. The issue is beyond signs themselves, which don’t vote and Romney doesn’t need name recognition boosts. But it’s about the principle of things, and the appearance that the Romney campaign is not taking Maine seriously. He has yet to even make a trip to Maine in the general election to meet with activists and excite the base, which would give a much needed boost to the Republican Party after a rough year internally. Is CD-2 going to be that critical? Some say it appears Romney does not believe so.
Given all the internal troubles, all is not lost for the Maine Republican Party. The Legislative majority is strong and Republicans look as though they will expand on that. Quality candidates exist at local, county, and state levels and are set to win. The party is energized moving forward for these candidates and in increasing turnout for these lower level candidates, there also stands the possibility they’re indirectly increasing turnout for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. It’s difficult at this point to truly call. But come Tuesday night, the CD-2 vote will be very close, with Romney even possibly securing victory.