Brian Snyder / Reuters
Mitt Romney arrives with his grandsons Joe, left, and Thomas to speak at a Republican caucus in Sanford, Maine, on Saturday.
GOP front-runner Mitt Romney won Maine's Republican presidential caucuses with 39 percent of the vote, breaking a three-state losing streak by besting libertarian-leaning Ron Paul, who finished a close second with 36 percent.
Romney had 2,190 total votes, while Paul got 1,996. Rick Santorum finished third with 18 percent (989 votes). Newt Gingrich was fourth with 6 percent (349 votes).
Voting in dozens of local caucuses across the state has been going on since late January. More than 20 caucuses were held on Saturday in something of a grand finale. Results were released by the state Republican Party Saturday night.
Romney sorely needed a boost after having lost, surprisingly, three nominating contests this past Tuesday.
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.
Paul said he was not deterred by the Maine caucuses.
"We're not going away," Paul told supporters after the Maine results were announced. "We have the message America needs at this particular time."
That message is "liberty," he said, including "the right to run your life as you choose " and to "keep the fruits of our labor."
The Maine caucuses are the last contests before Feb. 28 primaries in Arizona and Michigan, followed just a week later by March 6’s “Super Tuesday” slate of primaries and caucuses.
Brian Snyder / Reuters
Ron Paul greets voters outside a Republican caucus in Sanford, Maine, on Saturday.
Romney won the Maine caucuses in 2008 with just over half of the vote, riding the advantage of having governed nearby Massachusetts. Romney also decisively won this January’s New Hampshire caucus, coverage from which bleeds into Maine.
But the GOP primary’s putative frontrunner learned a lesson about taking caucuses for granted last Tuesday when he lost similar contests in Colorado and Minnesota – each of which Romney had won in 2008 – to Santorum.
Santorum didn't compete in Maine, but Romney made a trip to the state on Friday evening to participate in a town hall. His campaign made a small ad buy in the state, as well, during the time in which Republicans gathered for caucuses.
Romney faced his stiffest competition in Maine not from Santorum or former House Speaker Gingrich, but from Paul. The Texas congressman’s campaign strategy has keyed in on these caucuses, where his enthusiastic supporters can participate more actively.
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.
The Maine caucuses are somewhat unusual in the sense that, unlike most other caucuses and primary elections, they were conducted over the course of the past week.
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.