Romney takes Maine, continues to gain momentum


Nicole Wiegand

Mitt Romney, former Republican governor of Massachusetts, meets with supporters during a campaign stop at Kinzler Construction in Ames on Thursday, Dec. 29. Romney was the projected winner in Flordia’s primary on Jan. 31.

Thaddeus Mast

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, won both the Maine caucuses as well as a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday.

Romney has won 123 delegates so far in the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

“There has always been a desire among Republicans for a more conservative alternative to Mitt Romney and the fact that he won CPAC is very influential,” said Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics.

Romney won the CPAC straw poll with 38 percent of the votes, beating Rick Santorum who took 31 percent. Newt Gingrich followed with 15 percent and Ron Paul tailed with 12 percent, though he won last year.

The CPAC results may not be as conclusive as first thought, however.

“It’s not very representative. Most of the people who normally go to CPAC are students and younger Republicans who are very enthusiastic for candidates such as Ron Paul. This year, Ron Paul didn’t win because he didn’t attend,” said Steffen Schmidt, university professor of political science.

Romney also won the caucus in Maine with 39 percent of the vote. Paul followed closely with 36 percent. Santorum and Gingrich did not campaign in the state and got 18 and 6 percent of the vote.

The caucus process, however, may not have been entirely fair.

“Some of the precincts actually never had a caucus, especially the district where Ron Paul would have done the best, and he would have won in Maine if that caucus was held,” Schmidt said.

Santorum, who had won one primary and two caucuses last Tuesday, may have lost some momentum.

“Santorum’s momentum was halted, but he still could do well in some states coming up,” Bystrom said.

Paul and Gingrich, who have had poor showings in the past and only have one win between them, may be running out of support as well.

“It’s more or less Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney right now,” Schmidt said.

This fits with the idea that the Republicans are starting to split and take one of two paths.

“The Republicans at this point in time are either looking at electability, and that seems to point in the way of Mitt Romney, and others are just really interested in putting up the most conservative candidate,” Bystrom said. “The best candidate for the Republicans if they want to win is Mitt Romney because his strengths are on economic issues.”

Schmidt does not feel as strongly about Romney’s electability.

“Mitt Romney has a problem. This problem is that he’s never gotten more than 60 percent of any of the events that he has been in,” Schmidt said. “What it means is that the Republicans don’t like him very much and he’s having a hard time getting a majority of Republicans in any state to vote for him.”

The next primaries will be Feb. 28 in Michigan and Arizona.