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Maybe Romney Didn’t Win The Maine Caucuses After All

When we all woke up on the morning of January 3rd, it appeared that Mitt Romney had won a narrow victory over Rick Santorum in the Iowa Caucuses. It wasn’t until two weeks later that the Iowa GOP pulled an Emily Litella and announced that Rick Santorum had in fact won the contest, albeit by a similarly slim margin. Now it looks like the same thing may be about to happen in Maine:

Will Mitt Romney’s victory in Maine’s nonbinding presidential straw poll be overturned?

It seems possible, now that Maine has decided to include in the total vote the results from Washington County, which delayed its caucuses by a week and will vote on Saturday.

In practical terms, the straw poll is a meaningless “beauty contest” that does not award any delegates. That is to take place later at a Republican Party convention.

But the announcement last week that Mr. Romney had won the state’s straw poll by 39 percent to Ron Paul’s 36 percent — a difference of less than 200 votes — had stopped, at least temporarily, a negative story line for Mr. Romney, who lost three state contests earlier last week to Rick Santorum.

Losing the Maine straw poll, even after the fact, would be unfortunate for Mr. Romney,  former governor of nearby Massachusetts, since he is locked in a struggle right now in Michigan, his home state, with Mr. Santorum.

Turnout on Saturday in rural Washington County is likely to be much higher than it would have been last week and could be chaotic. Because this is the only county voting — and the margin needed for victory is known — supporters of both Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul could be galvanized to flood the caucus sites. (Mr. Santorum and Newt Gingrich did not actively compete in the state, and trailed in the straw poll.)

But wait, there’s more:

it turned out that the results of some caucuses that were held last week — most of those in Waldo County, for example — and were expected to be included in the total had not been counted either. (Waldo County’s problem was attributed to a clerical error.) This only added to the outrage, much of it directed at Mr. Webster and the state party.

Like I said yesterday, it’s time to end this absurd caucus system.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gromitt Gunn says:

    They just skipped counting a county entirely? What, does no one in the Maine GOP know how to use Excel?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    2 things:

    If the Republican party can not run a simple straw poll with out screwing it up, how in the hell does any one think they can run a government?

    Second, is there anything Romney can win, which can not later be taken back?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. @Gromitt Gunn:

    Washington County did not hold its caucuses last Saturday due to a snow storm.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  4. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I think he was referring to Waldo County, which, as you say in your own post, did not have its votes counted. And the mess is even bigger than that — Rachel Maddow has been all over this for days, and it’s really a case of shocking ineptitude or the Maine Republican chair desperately trying to throw the race to Romney.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I was referring to the Waldo County clerical error.

    There are only 16 counties in the state. How hard would be to create a list of them in Excel, do an autosum function on the vote totals, and then F2 your formula to make sure you picked up all of the cells?

    Answer: If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be a volunteer or paid job position where you’re allowed to sneeze in the same room as a set of data.

    Further: How unaware of public relations does your organization have to be to not have someone tasked with double checking pertinent data before releasing it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    Doug uses the total incompetence of Republicans in holding elections as a reason for eliminating the caucus system. Should we have abandoned elections altogether as a consequence of the incompetence of the Bush admin?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. Joe,

    Read my post from yesterday again. The logistical problems aren’t the reason I think caucuses should be eliminated, although they certainly aren’t an argument in their favor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Like I said yesterday, it’s time to end this absurd caucus system.

    What makes you think the Maine GOP could run an election any better than they run a caucus? Or when you say it’s time to end the caucus system, do you mean that the state government should take it over?

    I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. Why should I be required to fork over tax dollars to pay for the private functions of political parties I do not endorse and am not permitted to participate in?

    My personal feeling is that state funding of closed primaries is a violation of both the first ammendment and the equal protection clause.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  9. Stormy,

    Primary elections are run by a state’s election authorities, not a political party

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. @Doug Mataconis:

    And comment posts often contain more than one sentence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  11. Stormy,

    I get that. As I noted in my post yesterday, there are a number of possible solutions to your concerns, including increasing the filing fees that candidates are required to pay and requiring political parties to contribute to the cost of running the primary.

    However, we have two choices. Either we choose party nominees using methods are inherently unrepresentative, subject to being taken over by ideological extremists, and (as we’ve seen) capable of being mishandled logistically or, we use primaries.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. @Doug Mataconis:

    How is a primary I’m not allowed to vote in any more representative than a caucus I’m not allowed to vote in? At least the caucus doesn’t pretend to be representative and doesn’t add insult to injury by forcing me to pay for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  13. Moosebreath says:

    Gromit Gunn,

    “I was referring to the Waldo County clerical error.

    There are only 16 counties in the state. How hard would be to create a list of them in Excel, do an autosum function on the vote totals, and then F2 your formula to make sure you picked up all of the cells?”

    Maybe they thought the person who said “Where’s Waldo?” was having a flashback to his childhood.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Jeremy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I think what @Stormy Dragon is getting at is that the primaries are being paid for and run by the state and its election authorities, as you duly noted. That’s the main problem here; if it were a purely private undertaking by the political parties, then they could do whatever the hell they want and it wouldn’t matter. But, since this is involving taxpayer funds, which as we all know are involuntarily given to the government, they should A) be open to all citizens and B) be held to a far higher standard than the cockamamie BS we’ve seen this year. Because if we’re being forced to pay for them, then we should as all get-out have the right to actually participate in them.

    Though, if they’re entirely private, then that doesn’t matter. I think both you and Stormy agree on this, but you’re talking past each other a little bit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  15. Doubter4444 says:

    I’m sure others have noted the irony in the fact that the Republican’s are constantly shouting about voter fraud and worried that the Dems are stealing elections and we have this mess and Iowa, with ballots lost but winners announced… in their own primaries.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Buffalo Rude says:

    Like I said yesterday, it’s time to end this absurd caucus system.

    Or perhaps time to find more competent people to run the caucuses? I agree that they are somewhat absurd, but the inability to successful hold one is not the flaw in the caucus system – I don’t remember this being much of a problem in the past for any party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0