Romney will not be awarded delegates from the wins, though the Maine results could be mirrored at a state convention in May where the state’s 24 delegates will be awarded.
Still, taken together, the dual wins are likely to give a boost to Romney, who had faced tough questions in the last week about whether his campaign can excite the conservative base of the Republican party.
In Maine, Romney won 39 percent of the poll votes; Texas Rep. Ron Paul took 36 percent of the vote, while former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum captured 18 percent. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich won 6 percent.
In a statement, Romney said the voters of Maine “sent a clear message that it is past time to send an outsider to the White House, a conservative with a lifetime of experience in the private sector, who can uproot Washington’s culture of taxing and spending and borrowing and endless bureaucracy.”
The tiny Maine race — fewer than 5,600 votes were cast — had taken on increased importance in recent days as Romney had faced new worries about his ability to unite the Republican party after losing to Santorum in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado on Tuesday.
Maine was Romney’s only chance to reset the race’s narrative for more than two weeks and a loss in the Northeastern state would have been another setback for his campaign.
Republicans will not vote again until the critically important primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28, followed by Super Tuesday on March 6, when 10 states will hold elections.
Romney held a significant advantage in key Maine endorsements. But Paul had aggressively worked the state’s grass roots in hopes of snagging his first win of the presidential primary season in Maine.
At the straw poll conducted at the CPAC event in Washington, Romney won 38 percent of the 3,408 votes cast, giving him a healthy cushion over the 31 percent won by Santorum. Gingrich won 15 percent of the vote and Paul took 12 percent.
Romney’s good day is unlikely to put to rest continued questions from the right wing of the party about his candidacy.
Top conservative activist Richard A. Viguerie in a Saturday statement scoffed at Romney’s description of his own tenure as Massachusetts governor as “severely conservative” in a Friday speech to CPAC.
Viguerie insisted that in 50 years of work in Republican politics, he’d never heard Romney described that way.
“Romney has shown, once again, that he can mouth the words conservatives use, but he has no gut-level emotional connection with the conservative movement and its ideas and policies,” said Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, who has endorsed Santorum.