Romney in Maine: Strategy, Media, and Enthusiasm

Mitt Romney will be appearing in Maine this evening, holding one event at a Portland Yacht Service Company. (Ron Paul will also be appearing in Maine.) Details here.

How much interest has there been? And how much voter enthusiasm? 

It’s hard to gauge enthusiasm, but 2012 seems quite a bit quieter than 2008, at least if we compare the Democratic contest four years ago to the Republican one now.

In 2008, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton visited Maine and generated significant attention. Obama filled the Bangor Auditorium and there was an overflow crowd that could not get in. Clinton held two, well-attended events, also with overflow crowds. And both had enthusiastic supporters and volunteers who organized people to go to the Maine caucuses and who put up signs showing their support.

The Bangor caucus was held at a large site, the Bangor Civic Center; people from the small town of Veazie caucused separately caucused there as well. The caucus kicked off late because there were so many people there changing their registrations from unenrolled (independent) to Democratic so they could caucus. Governor Baldacci spoke on behalf of Clinton and former Democratic nominee for president and Senator John Kerry spoke in support of Obama.

Things have been considerably quieter in 2012. Republicans have already caucused in Bangor, but their meeting was held in a smaller site than the Democrats’ 2008 location. While they bragged about how many people showed up, the so-called Super Caucus encompassed all of Penobscot County. The only speaker of note there was John Sununu, former New Hampshire Governor and President George H.W. Bush’s White House Chief of Staff (until being fired by George W. Bush after Sununu took military helicopters to go golfing).

While there have been some news stories about the Maine Republican caucuses, there’s been virtually no advertising by the candidates. Except for a few Ron Paul signs — and I mean very few — there haven’t been signs for the candidates. If there’s organizing for the campaigns, it’s been going on rather quietly.

How does this visit visit fit with the state of the race and Romney’s strategy?

Putative front-runner Romney has hit a rough patch of late, what with Santorum having swept three caucuses earlier this week.

Ron Paul has an outside chance to win Maine, which would be rather embarrassing to Romney and would contribute to the narrative that Romney’s campaign has weakened.

As the Washington Post reported, “Even Romney’s supporters acknowledge that he cannot afford to lose another contest right away. He is pushing hard in the Maine caucuses, followed by primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28.

Romney badly wants to get a win in Maine. Considering he got nearly 52% in 2008 and is a New England Republican, one would expect him to do well.

Where are Maine people getting their campaign news?

Here’s a great piece on this subject produced for PBS’s Washington Week by University of Maine journalism student, Kylie Keene. Reporter Keene shows the differences in news sources for older and younger voters.

Watch Voice of the Voters: Maine on PBS. See more from Washington Week.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.