Thursday, January 26, 2012

As Ron Paul aims to win Maine caucus, professors agree he could take the state

SUN JOURNAL | Kathryn Skelton | January 26, 2012

Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada, all states well and good, but don’t overlook Maine, says Paul Madore.

Madore, a longtime Lewiston conservative activist and now state chairman of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s campaign, said it’s his candidate's intention to win here.

“Maine is a very significant state; it always has been, in terms of how it affects the national mood,” Madore said Thursday, on his way back from scoring endorsements at the State House in advance of Paul’s planned visit. “I think Ron Paul realizes that. He’s got a good organization in Maine and he believes in the fierce independence of Maine people. They’re patriots.”

Paul will visit Lewiston on Friday, part of a two-day, six-stop tour of the state. He’ll speak at the Ramada Inn at 7 p.m. in an event that’s free and open to the public.

“There’s going to be an aggressive Q&A and he’ll take time to meet the voters,” Madore said. “I think it’s time to stop and spend time in Lewiston, not drive through.”

Though some towns will vote early, Maine’s Republican caucus formally begins Feb. 4, with a winner chosen Feb. 11. It will be the country's sixth state caucus or primary. Paul came in second in New Hampshire and fourth in South Carolina last weekend.

Jim Melcher, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine at Farmington, said Paul could make a strong showing here.

“I’d even give him a chance of winning (the Maine caucus) if he can get his supporters organized,” Melcher said in an email. “Being the only major candidate to campaign here recently won't hurt, either.”

Maine political observers Sandy Maisel and Mark Brewer echoed that: A win is quite possible.

What would it mean, big-picture?

“Very little,” said Maisel, a professor of government at Colby College.

“My guess is that in his heart of hearts, Ron Paul knows he can’t win the nomination,” said Brewer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine in Orono. “But he can stick around long enough and accumulate delegates long enough that he can get something that’s meaningful to him out of this.”

Maybe that's a prime speaking spot at the national convention, maybe presidential run support for his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Brewer said.

They agreed that courting Maine makes economic sense for the candidate, who doesn’t have the deep coffers of Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich.

“Caucuses are good for a candidate with a passionate following, and I would argue Paul has the most passionate supporters of the Republican candidates, even if not the most of them,” Melcher said. “Caucuses reward that sort of passion and commitment more than primaries do.”

Maisel said he was almost surprised Paul wasn't staying longer.

"There won't be much media," he said. "It's mostly organization, that's the whole point. It's a very smart strategy for someone who doesn't have much money."

Melcher and Brewer said they’d both seen students on campus coming out to support Paul. The Texas congressman has been credited nationally with attracting a young base. The University of Southern Maine and Colby College are two of Paul's planned stops.

In 2008, he was the only Republican presidential candidate to visit Maine before the caucus. (Romney's son visited on his behalf.) That year, Paul came in third, with 19 percent of the vote, behind Romney and John McCain, in the Maine caucuses.

Madore said several state legislators told him they would endorse Paul.

“I’m waiting for them to make that public,” he said.

A carpenter by trade, Madore said he was surprised, and receptive, when the Paul campaign reached out to him in October.

“I believe strongly in Mr. Paul’s vision for America, a return to constitutional liberty and discipline,” Madore said. “Given the economy and the building cycle, it was timely for me. Right now, my tools are safe and dry in my shop and I’m working hard for Ron Paul.”


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