Maine GOP to consider counting late caucus votes

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
Font Size:

Results from the Maine caucuses were announced Saturday, with Mitt Romney claiming a slim 194-vote victory over Ron Paul. But the last-minute postponement of one county’s voting means the race is still wide-open — at least in the eyes of many Paul supporters.

Washington County, in the far eastern part of the state, postponed its caucus Friday evening, noting a forecast of snow. At the time the county’s GOP chair, Chris Gardner, apparently believed his county’s votes in the presidential preference poll would count.

The county, however, only received a dusting of snow; and come Saturday evening, state party chairman Charlie Webster announced that no subsequent votes would count. Gardner, shocked, told the Associated Press, “Refusal to reconsider under those circumstances would be extremely disheartening.”

“We will proceed next Saturday,” said Gardner, a Romney supporter. “We’ll have our vote and we are going to submit it to the state party for them to reconsider.”

The Maine Republican Party will meet on March 10 to decide whether to include the votes from Washington County and a handful of late-voting towns in the final tally, Webster told The Daily Caller on Monday.

But if there’s one thing Webster is sure of, it is that Ron Paul cannot eek out a 200-vote margin of victory in the county. It would be “highly unlikely, almost a miracle, improbable” for the statewide results to change, he said.

“There aren’t enough votes in Washington County to turn this election around,” said Webster. “Even if there is a record turnout of 300 people — it’s usually 113, [or] 140 — he wouldn’t win by 200 votes.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Ron Paul)

“Whoever was advising Ron Paul should never have mentioned Washington County, because it’s misleading,” added Webster. “It is unfortunately that someone didn’t do the research to find out that this is a small rural part of Maine that wouldn’t have a major impact on a statewide election.”

“We are confident that we will control the Maine delegation for the convention in August,” said campaign chairman Jesse Benton in a Saturday evening press release titled “Ron Paul Victory in Maine!”

Paul supporters have insinuated that Romney supporters may be responsible for dirty tricks. “In Washington County — where Ron Paul was incredibly strong — the caucus was delayed until next week just so the votes wouldn’t be reported by the national media today,” wrote Paul campaign manager John Tate in a Saturday night statement, ridiculing the “excuse” of a possible snowstorm.

“This is an outrage,” wrote Tate, noting that a local Girl Scouts event had not been cancelled that day. “[J]ust the votes of Washington County would have been enough to put us over the top,” he said.

Paul campaign spokesman Gary Howard told TheDC Monday that the campaign remains confident it will control the majority of the state’s delegates. Howard said, however, “We can’t really suspect anyone of anything because all we know is that Washington County’s caucus was cancelled at the last minute for some reason.”

Nate Silver of The New York Times wrote Sunday that if the Washington County votes were to push Paul over the edge, turnout would have to be significantly higher than than it was in 2008, when only 113 votes were cast, including eight for Paul.

“There are 6,907 registered Republicans in Washington County, and another 8,247 unaffiliated registered voters, who are eligible to participate,” wrote Silver.

If the county’s turnout for the rescheduled Feb. 18 caucus is on par with the Iowa caucuses’ turnout level, “it would produce about 1,300 participants,” wrote Silver, who noted that the delay could ultimately benefit Paul if turnout is high and in his favor.

Follow Steven on Twitter