wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Maine’s weird, weeklong caucus

at 12:36 PM ET, 02/10/2012

Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) might have his first victory soon: Maine.

Like Paul himself, the primary process in Maine goes against the grain. Most caucuses last a day. In Maine, they last a week.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) ignored the low-turnout, Northeastern state and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is visiting for the first time Friday, while Paul has been campaigning heavily there.

Under state law, there is a two-and-a-half month window in which voters can caucus. The state parties can recommend a shorter caucusing time, but they cannot enforce one.

Mike Quatrano, the executive director of the state Republican party, said the GOP has been trying to consolidate its caucus since last year. But, he explained it was “kind of a culture shock to some of these folks.” Proposals to shorten the caucus to a day or a weekend “absolutely did not fly.”

The party settled on recommending a week: Feb. 4 to Feb. 11. The idea was to time the caucuses close to New Hampshire’s primary, hoping candidates campaigning in the Granite State would stop by. But then New Hampshire moved up to early January.

Even with a weeklong window, 22 of the 97 municipalities failed to schedule their caucuses within that time frame.


Supporters cheer as Republican presidential candidate and Texas Rep. Ron Paul leaves a campaign stop in Bangor, Maine. (Robert F. Bukaty - Associated Press)

Like Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota, Maine holds a non-binding caucus, so none of the state’s 24 GOP delegates are bound to vote for a candidate. The results being released Saturday are from a straw poll taken at each caucus that has no solid relation to the state delegates chosen. (The straw poll results from the four caucuses happening after Saturday will be left out.)

“We’re as nonbinding as you can get,” Quatrano added, explaining that at many caucuses every person who volunteers to be a delegate gets a spot.

But Paul’s camp is confident that delegate preferences in the caucus states will carry over to the state conventions.

The state does have a primary in June, but the presidential nomination isn’t even on the ballot.

 
Read what others are saying