While all the political (and media-generated) momentum seems to be on John McCain’s side, Mitt Romney won a small, but perhaps important battle this weekend by overwhelmingly winning the Maine Republican caucuses (the Democratic caucuses will be held on Feburary 10th).
The GOP caucuses took place across the state from Friday through Sunday, with most completed by Saturday night. The caucus votes are nonbinding but, based on the results, the Associated Press estimates Romney will win all 18 delegates stemming from the caucus process. The state has 21 delegates to the GOP convention overall.
With 68 percent reporting at the end of Saturday, the results were:
Romney = 52%
McCain = 21%
Paul = 19%
Huckabee = 6%
Undecided = 2%
McCain had been endorsed by both of Maine’s moderate Republican Senators—Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
Despite its nonbinding status, the Maine caucuses may be a good sign for Romney. Romney is counting on finishing first in several caucus states on Super Tuesday to stay in the race for the GOP nomination, essentially ceding several primary contests to McCain—especially in the South and Northeast. Caucus states are generally thought to favor Romney as they are more frequently attended by conservatives and “true blood” Republicans, as opposed to the Republican moderates and independents which comprise the base of McCain’s support in primaries.
Montana, Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota, and West Virginia are all holding cacuses on February 5th. With Romney scoring a caucus win in a Northeastern state like Maine, expect him to finish first in most of the western caucus states (Romney had already won the Wyoming and Nevada caucuses).
McCain’s advantage coming into Tuesday, however, is significant, as his likely wins in the Northeast give him much bigger delegate prizes (several states are winner-take-all on the GOP side) than those states in which Romney is projected to be competitive.
Over the next 24 hours Smart Politics will be posting its Super Tuesday Preview for both the GOP and Democrats.