PORTLAND, Maine — The moment Ron Paul’s narrow loss to Mitt Romney in the municipal caucuses here was announced on the TV screens Saturday night, supporters of the Texas congressman angrily greeted the news with booing, jeers, and even one yell of, “Liar!”
But the actual feelings of those on Team Paul — much like Maine’s delegate-awarding system itself — are more complicated.
“I’m slightly disappointed that it was so close, but it was just amazing that he got this close, also,” said Karin Berling, a 39-year-old Cape Elizabeth medical translator whose husband won a spot as a Paul delegate to the state convention. “So I am kind of torn. I’m disappointed, but I’m really excited.”
Paul himself acknowledged the narrowness of his roughly 200-vote loss in his speech at the Seasons Event Conference Center and Ballroom here, telling the 300 or so assembled supporters, “It’s almost like we could call it a tie.”
Among those in the ballroom who saw a silver lining in Paul’s performance was Jean Carbonneau, a 50-year-old postal worker (“I call it the circus that never leaves town, but you know it as the post office”) who voted at Saturday’s Portland caucus.
The reason for his optimism? Paul may well come out ahead in the delegate race.
“I’m pleased. He did better than I thought he would,” Carbonneau said of Paul. “He’ll keep going forward. Personally, I know the establishment wants him out. But if he continues to do well like he did here, and continues on marching and getting delegates — which is the whole process — he’s going to stay in the race until the convention.”
That, in a nutshell, is why Paul’s campaign blasted out a news release shortly after the release of Saturday’s caucus results reading, “Ron Paul Victory in Maine!”
While the release noted that Paul had been “nudged out” from first place in the straw poll by “eventual winner Gov. Mitt Romney,” it also stated that “we are confident we will control the Maine delegation for the convention in August.”
On top of that, Paul’s camp says that one of its “strongholds,” Washington County, did not vote on Saturday and that if it had, Paul would have come out on top in the straw poll. (Of course, there are plenty of other precincts in the state that did not participate at all in the straw poll voting — which is why the caucus results are worth taking with a large grain of salt.)
Ken Kroesser, a 64-year-old residential care facility owner from the town of Washington, was walking around the Paul caucus night headquarters bearing a handmade banner that read, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.”
Did that mean that Paul would come up short nationally? Quite the opposite, he contended.
“We’re really, really excited,” Kroesser said. “This is really looking very good. It doesn’t tell the whole story yet. Nationwide, I think there’s an awakening coming. I think there’s going to be a lot of people, especially the mainstream media’s going to be a little shocked when they see what happens.”
Like many others assembled in the ballroom, Kroesser and his wife, Janice, were Paul supporters who had won spots to serve as delegates at the state convention this spring.
Both said they had been fervent Paul supporters since 2008, and Janice Kroesser noted that she had first registered as a Republican four years ago so could serve as a delegate for Paul.
“I’m basically a political atheist,” she said. “I don’t believe in one party or the other because they’re the same. I don’t see them changing. The other platform’s a little different; the rhetoric’s a little different. But when push comes to shove, the decisions they make in Washington, D.C. are no different.”
“You have one dragon and two heads,” her husband said.
Janice Kroesser nodded. “Two heads of the same monster.”