Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mitt Romney Wins Maine Caucus

Mitt Romney won the Maine Caucus on Saturday, narrowly edging out Ron Paul. While Romney beat Paul by 3 points among the reporting precincts, so few people vote in the Maine Caucus that it amounted to less than 200 votes. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich placed far behind. The Republican Party of Maine officially declared Romney the winner, even though some precincts have yet to report; some of these precincts may be participating in the caucus outside of the February 4-11th timeframe. Even if, as in Iowa, a later tally gave the victory to Romney's opponent, Romney is the beneficiary of the result here. Since there are no delegates to be won in the non-binding caucus, all of the benefit comes from positive media.

Maine Caucus (84% reporting)
Romney -- 39%
Paul -- 36%
Santorum -- 18%
Gingrich -- 6%

What will Maine's impact be, and what do the results reveal? Overall, little. There are some things to be gleaned, but they point in opposing directions, for a small net impact. Romney won, blunting the "Romney's campaign is falling" narrative. That is balanced by the fact that he won by a small amount. But that, in turn, is balanced by the fact that his nearest competitor was Paul, rather than Santorum, whom he trounced by 20 points. That's good news for Romney, especially since it reinforces the notion that Romney holds an advantage over Santorum in the Northeast. On the other hand, Santorum still has time to rise from his surge; however, Santorum has not been vetted yet. Santorum also takes away good news, since he beat Gingrich, the competing Anti-Romney, by a substantial margin. This, too, is balanced somewhat by the fact that it took place in a Northeastern state where Gingrich was not expected to do well.

As one can tell from the description in the preceding paragraph, the circumstances make for a muddled analysis rather than providing one clear lesson. If Santorum had won, or if Gingrich had beaten Santorum, things would have been interesting.

The first real battle between Santorum and Romney will take place in Michigan, which holds its primary on February 28th. One debate will take place prior to that primary, on February 22nd. Until then, the extent of Santorum's strength won't be fully clear.