2016 has been a success in terms of turnout for the Republican Party overall. For a variety of reasons, turnout is being driven and more activists are seeking to become apart of the process. Given the process is very much alive with a number of candidates still waging viable attempts to secure the nomination, the Maine caucus promises to be another battleground for Republican candidates.
In a lot of ways, the differences between 2012 and 2016 are night and day. While it will likely be another passionate battle for supporters of the candidates still remaining, it shows promises of being a more professional and fairly conducted process.
Republicans won’t have to worry about phantom snowstorms complicating Washington County voting or Charlie Webster’s hungry spam filter eating votes. There aren’t any party officials going to the papers and openly declaring certain groups are not welcome within the party.
Current Chairman Rick Bennett is hoping for a fair and smooth process, a more welcoming message than many received four years ago from the State Party.
“Were all excited about prospects of caucus and giving every Maine Republican a meaningful vote,” Chairman Bennett said of the process.
There are differences between then and now. The vote taken at the caucuses will be binding and we will know a winner today. This is a response to the long delegation battle that resulted in a tricky caucus process, a chaotic convention, and brutal tug-of-war over the National Delegation. The hope with this seems to be aiming to prevent that.
“We are trying to stick to some simple principles and keep it as consistent and understandable as possible,” Chairman Bennett noted regarding the procedural changes involving the caucus.
Bennett described the process as a hybridized approach, which combines the elements of a primary and a caucus. This is an interesting approach, given the ongoing debate in party politics over which process is better. There were attempts after the messy 2012 primaries to turn Maine into a primary state, which failed to pass.
It remains to be seen how the process plays out, but it promises to be a strong day for Republican turnout. New Day for America, a Super PAC supporting Governor John Kasich, has established an office in Maine. Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz both have made stops in Maine, which will likely rally their respective bases and inspire strong turn out from them.
The biggest questions will be involving the supporters of Senator Marco Rubio and Ben Carson. Will Senator Rubio’s supporters stand by their one hit wonder candidate or will they rally behind Senator Cruz in a late effort to unite against Donald Trump? Will Ben Carson’s supporters remain behind him despite him stating he can’t win? What about the supporters of candidates who are no longer in the race, but still appear on the ballot?
Chairman Bennett’s stated goals involve an impartial process that allows for the supporters of candidates to show up, be apart of the process and vote, and hopefully grow the party.
Will it be a high turnout weekend? Undoubtedly. Will emotions run high? Very likely. But can many Republicans show up to do their part in the process without the process becoming an organizational mess with questionable credibility? It remains to be seen how things will turn out, but judging by the outreach efforts by the party and the hopes of Chairman Bennett, there is reason for optimism.