Could blueberry state Maine be a slice of Romney's presidential pie?

Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:34am EDT

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Davenport, Iowa October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Davenport, Iowa October 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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(Reuters) - Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are scouting an unlikely path to the White House through the vast forests and blueberry barrens of northern Maine.

President Barack Obama is expected to win the Pine Tree State easily in the November 6 election.

Regardless, Romney allies are buying TV time with the hope of carrying the state's thinly populated interior and scraping out one electoral college vote in Maine that could edge their man closer to the 270 needed to win the White House.

With polls showing a dead heat nationally, Republicans in the state are focusing their phone calls and door-knocking efforts on the rural north of Maine -- one of two states that play by a different set of rules in presidential elections.

Most states give all of their electoral votes to the winner, but Maine and Nebraska award one electoral vote to the winners of each of their congressional districts, two in Maine and three in Nebraska.

The candidate who takes the statewide vote -- very likely to be Obama in Maine -- receives an additional two electoral votes, meaning there are a total of four up for grabs in Maine.

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.

Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, said it was possible, if not likely, that Romney could win half the state.

"There's not a lot going on on the ground that would lead you to believe he could do this," Brewer said. "But who knows? Polling is pretty sparse up here."

Republicans certainly think it's possible. "I think it's very likely that he'll win," said David Sorensen, a spokesman for the state Republican party.

The odds seem stacked against Romney, though. Maine has never split its electoral votes and it hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. A series of polls in September showed Obama leading Romney by double-digit margins statewide.

A bruising, months-long battle within the state party between Romney supporters and backers of libertarian-leaning candidate Ron Paul has also prompted many Republican activists to stay on the sidelines this fall.

"I think Romney will do well, but if they had welcomed the Ron Paul people instead of alienating them like they did it would probably be a sure thing," said Republican activist Chris Dixon, a Paul supporter.

TWO MAINES

While aides highlight efforts to expand the race into states once thought safe for Obama, like Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Maine hasn't really been on the Romney campaign's radar so far.

Romney himself owns a home in neighboring New Hampshire, and his campaign is based in Boston, an hour's drive from the Maine border. But he hasn't visited the state since last winter.

The election highlights the gulf between what residents call the "Two Maines" -- the relatively affluent southern coast and the rest of the state, where opportunities have dwindled amid cutbacks in logging, potato farming and fish canning.

Regional disparities like this normally do not matter in the context of presidential politics because most states award their electoral votes on an all-or-nothing basis.

Obama picked up an additional electoral vote this way in 2008 when he won one congressional district in Nebraska.

Nebraska is not expected to split its votes this year, but Romney's allies seem to like the odds in Maine.

Restore Our Future, an outside group supporting the former Massachusetts governor, spent $300,000 on television advertising in the northern half of the state last week, and plans to spend $490,000 across the state in the final week before the election.

The ads running in the Portland television market reach voters in New Hampshire, but those running in Bangor and Presque Isle are aimed squarely at voters in Maine's second congressional district, which encompasses the state's less affluent half.

Maine Republicans say they are focusing their get-out-the-vote efforts on the second district, and they hope the burst of energy can help them unseat Michael Michaud, the Democrat who represents the region in Congress.

Democrats scoff at this, pointing to their own private polling that shows Obama and Michaud leading handily. The Romney campaign would have a more visible presence in the state if they thought they had a chance, they say.

"We don't see any evidence that this Romney 'head fake' has any basis in reality," said Ben Grant, the state Democratic Party chairman.

(Additional reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Paul Tait)

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Comments (9)
flashrooster wrote:
Man, it makes no sense to cast a vote for Mitt Romney. Regardless of the job you think Obama has done, what can’t be denied is that he’s handled himself well and the actions he has taken as President have been rational. He took over the Presidency during the second worst economic meltdown in our country’s history. It’s going to take some time to get out of this. But we definitely are headed in the right direction. That can’t be denied.

Also, Obama is a good man. There’s been no evidence that he has anything less than stellar character and is a good family man. I think Romney is probably a good family man as well, but I think his character should be called into question.

There was the incident at his prep school where he wrestled some poor guy to the ground and cut the boys hair off. I never did anything like that, and I’m no angel. It’s just that THAT is unusually mean, out of the ordinary.

Then there was his demonstrating in support of the Vietnam War, but when it came HIS turn to serve, he got deferments to go hangout in France. I can just imagine what the right would be saying if Obama had done that. That alone would probably have kept him from being elected. There’s just something about arguing in favor of sending other Americans to risk life and limb, but not be willing to do it yourself.

And on top of that, Romney makes a Herculean effort to avoid paying any taxes that go to support those Americans who Romney marched in favor of sending to fight in a war. Again, there’s just something about seeing an incredibly rich person who has been SO lucky and has benefited SO much from being born in the US, who finds it SO unworthy to contribute to keeping the US such a great place to live. There’s something lacking there, a Gordon Gecko quality.

Strapping his dog to the roof of his car doesn’t go over very good with me, either. The guy has an elevator for his cars in his house. I imagine he didn’t want to get dog hair on his precious interior. I wouldn’t think of doing that to my dog, nor do I know anyone who would.

And then there’s the lying. Sure, all politicians engage in it, but I’d never in my life seen a politician lie so readily, so often, and with such aplomb. And he does it with a straight face. There’s something wrong with that.

There’s something important that is lacking in Mitt Romney and in my opinion should disqualify him from being President. He is not an honorable man and would serve our country as President about as honorably as he served our country during the Vietnam War.

Oct 30, 2012 4:01am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Marla wrote:
Mainers are nothing if not pragmatic, they value the ideals of working hard, and doing the right thing. They have an excellent social safety net system that they are rather proud of. Romney doesn’t stand a chance in that state!

Oct 30, 2012 4:17am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Sensibility wrote:
Obama has been an absolutely awful President, and he does not deserve another term in office. Here are just a few of the reasons:

-Secured health care “reform” that includes an individual mandate to buy insurance. In 2008, he campaigned against the individual mandate. Thus, Obama failed to deliver on what he said he would.
-Most tepid economic recovery in history. Usually, a deep recession is followed by an equally strong recovery. Not so this time.
-Unemployment equal to where it was when Obama took office. 23 million out of work.
-Did not lower taxes on the middle class like he promised. The payroll tax credit only lasted two years.
-Did not enact the Simpson Bowles recommendations.
-Wage increases have not kept pace with inflation. So, the economy is not growing as far as the middle class is concerned.
-Delayed Iraq withdrawal while thousands of Americans were killed, and maimed. These are real people whose lives and families have been destroyed by Obama’s failure to quickly wind down the Iraq war.
-No real progress on gay rights. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is not good enough.
-Weakened environmental regulations. Did not enact the EPA recommended smog rule. Did not kill the Keystone pipeline. Did not create federal standards for shale drilling.
-No education reform policy. Slashed federal education standards.
-Did not do anything to increase energy independence.
-Did not even participate in a conversation on Medicare or Social Security reform.
-Did not increase US standing in the Middle East. They all hate us just as much as when Bush was in office.
-Did not close Gitmo.
-Probably worst of all – did not change the tone in Washington.

I voted for Obama in 2008. He failed.

Oct 30, 2012 10:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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