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The Maine caucus: A reader report Update: Romney ahead, heavy turnout despite bad weather; Update: Romney wins

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By Michelle Malkin  •  February 2, 2008 12:46 PM

Scroll down for updates…

The Maine caucus is today. It’s a presidential preference poll that’ll offer a boost to the winning candidate, but not delegates. The process continues today and tomorrow: “The Maine Republican Party said voters will participate in caucuses held in 80 percent of municipalities, up from 54 percent in 2006. Maine voters want to ‘make some noise before Super Tuesday,’ said Joseph Reisert, chairman of the Government Department at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.”

Reader Erin writes in:

Hi Michelle,

I just got back from the caucus in my district in Maine. Romney was immensely popular today; of course there were a lot of Ron Paul nuts, and I saw no supporters of McCain.

Olympia Snowe came in to speak on behalf of McCain. She was not too popular, and was very nearly booed. People got to Q&A her, and the overall sentiment was complete disdain for McCain’s liberal stance on immigration. One person even asked her why conservatives should rally McCain after he flirted with leaving the party and running as Kerry’s veep. She had no argument but to say “I don’t want to delve into rumors and hearsay.” (Rumors and hearsay?) She didn’t stick around long.

Anyway, my district tends to be conservative, but I am hopeful Romney does as well in the rest of the state.

Update 1:49pm Eastern. Romney’s ahead in early results…

Mitt Romney took an early lead in presidential preference voting by Maine Republicans as the first returns were counted Saturday from the party’s municipal caucuses, which GOP officials said were heavily attended across the state.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, had 59 percent of the vote with 3 percent of the towns holding caucuses reporting. Ron Paul trailed with 19 percent, John McCain had 18 percent, and Mike Huckabee and undecided votes each had about 2 percent.

The nonbinding votes, the first step toward electing 18 Maine delegates to the Republican National Convention, were taking place in public schools, Grange halls, fire stations and town halls across the state.

Despite a sleet storm the night before that left much of the state coated with slush and ice, cars jammed the parking lot outside an Augusta elementary school where Kennebec County municipalities were caucusing.

Signs promoting the candidates were jabbed in snowbanks, and inside the school gym speeches were being given on behalf of candidates as around 300 party members listened and occasionally broke into cheers.

Kim Pettengill, who has been a party activist for more than three decades, said Saturday’s was the largest Kennebec County caucus turnout since 1980, the year Ronald Reagan won his first GOP nomination for president.

Party Executive Director Julie O’Brien said other counties reported similarly heavy turnouts.

Update: Romney wins.

His statement:

Today, the people of Maine joined those from across the nation in casting their vote for conservative change in Washington. All across the state, men and women gathered to help chart the future course of our country. Tonight, they have made their voice known and have endorsed our conservative vision for a stronger America. Like many Americans, the people of Maine are tired of Washington promises made but broken.”

Romney went on to say, “The need for change in Washington is even more apparent today. With our economy facing uncertain times, we need a leader who actually understands how the economy works and how jobs are created. We also need a leader from outside of Washington who is ready to meet the long-term challenges facing our country. With a career spent working in the economy, creating jobs, turning around faltering institutions and imposing fiscal discipline, I am ready to bring conservative change to Washington. In this campaign, I am proud to have the support of the people of Maine.”

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