Results of Maine’s non-binding straw poll showed the former Massachusetts governor with 39 percent support, or 2,190 votes, ahead of libertarian Texas Congressman Ron Paul with 36 percent or 1,996 votes, Reuters reports.
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who did not campaign in Maine, won 18 percent and 6 percent of the vote, respectively.
According to CNN, Romney’s campaign released a statement after the Maine results were announced early Saturday evening, thanking the state’s voters and continuing to tout his conservative principles as he had at the Washington conference.
“We stand for conservative principles, liberty and prosperity. All of these are under threat. I’m in this race because I believe that America can be turned around, that we don’t have to accept unemployment over 8%, a national debt that is as large as our entire economy, and a president who, even as his own policies fail, apologizes for America’s past successes,” the statement read.
“We’ve had enough. It’s time to reverse Barack Obama’s legacy of domestic disarray and foreign-policy weakness,” it added.
February had been expected to be a relatively easy stretch for Romney, but former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum’s victory in Colorado and Minnesota’s caucuses, along with a non-binding primary in Missouri, fueled fresh questions about Romney’s ability to win over a broad swath of conservatives, reports NBS Politics.
Romney earlier on Saturday won a closely watched straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, with 38 percent support to Santorum’s 31 percent.
Paul campaigned in Maine for a couple of days in late January, and his campaign desperately needs a win.
Paul hasn’t won a single contest yet despite his focus on caucuses, though he’s working to accrue additional delegates in the allocation process. Failing to win in Maine, though, calls into question the wisdom of the Paul campaign’s long-term strategy.
“Just remember, the revolution is only beginning. The momentum is going to continue, we’re not going away,” Paul told cheering supporters after the results were announced.
“We’re going to be in all these places where we’re going to pick up, continue to pick up the delegates, for one good reason — we have the message that America needs at this particular time.”
“We’re going to continue like we are doing the smaller states, the caucus states where we can accumulate delegates,” Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Saturday night.
Santorum and Newt Gingrich did not actively compete in the Maine contest, as Paul was the only candidate who had recently campaigned in Maine. But after his triple losses Tuesday, Romney held a town hall in Portland — his first visit to the Pine Tree state this entire election cycle — then added events on Saturday morning.
The Northeastern state of Maine encompasses everything from oceanfront estates such as one owned by former President George H. W. Bush in Kennebunkport, to remote potato farms near the state’s northern border with Canada.
Obama won the state by 18 points in the 2008 election. Maine, which has two moderate Republican U.S. senators, has not voted Republican in a presidential election since 1988.
Maine will send 24 delegates to the Republican convention this summer, though the caucus is only the beginning of a process in awarding these delegates to candidates. The specific allocation will be decided at a later date.
The next contests in the state-by-state Republican nominating process are in Arizona and Michigan on February 28. “Super Tuesday,” when 10 states hold primaries or caucuses, comes shortly afterward, on March 6.