Bloomberg News

Romney Regains Momentum With Maine Caucus Straw Poll Victory

February 14, 2012

(Updates with comments from Santorum in 10th paragraph. For more campaign news, ELECT)

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Mitt Romney won a straw poll conducted as part of the Maine caucuses, rebounding from three losses earlier this week in the race for the Republican U.S. presidential nomination.

The former Massachusetts governor got 39 percent of the vote, according to the state party. U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas, the only other candidate whose campaign competed aggressively in Maine, took 36 percent. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania got 18 percent and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich had 6 percent.

Romney yesterday also won a straw poll sponsored by the Conservative Political Action Conference and the Washington Times, receiving 38 percent of the vote. The survey polled 3,408 participants at the 39th annual CPAC gathering in Washington, which drew about 10,000 people.

While the Maine results don’t immediately offer any convention delegates to Romney, they give him renewed momentum after losses to Santorum in a non-binding primary in Missouri and caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado on Feb. 7.

“The voters of Maine have 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,” Romney said in an e-mailed statement.

Maine Caucuses

The Maine results are based on votes cast at 84 percent of municipal caucuses that have been conducted to date; the rest will be held by March 20. The state’s delegates to the August Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, will be allocated in May.

Romney victories in Florida’s Jan. 31 primary and Nevada’s Feb. 4 caucuses had made him the front-runner for the nomination. His losses earlier this week cast that in doubt and illustrated his failure to spark passion among the anti-abortion and anti-spending voters who are the Republican Party’s core. He avoided a fourth straight loss by defeating Paul by fewer than 200 votes in Maine.

“It’s almost like we could call it a tie,” Paul told supporters. He renewed his call for a smaller federal government, saying, “the government should be out of the economy.”

Santorum came in second in the CPAC poll with 31 percent, and Gingrich was third with 15 percent. Paul, who won the group’s 2010 and 2011 straw polls, received 12 percent. Paul was the only one of the four remaining Republican presidential candidates to decline an invitation to speak at this year’s conference.

‘Two-Person Race’

Santorum said the victories last week gave his campaign a “shot in the arm,” and that he’s focused on beating Romney in contests such as the Arizona and Michigan primaries on Feb. 28.

“We can do reasonably well in Arizona and really make this a two-person race,” Santorum said today on ABC’s “This Week.”

CPAC, hosted by the non-profit American Conservative Union Foundation, attracts Republicans motivated by cutting taxes and ending abortion rights, a voting bloc that has questioned Romney’s commitment to their causes.

The CPAC poll, conducted by Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates, was taken between 9 a.m. Feb. 9 and 1 p.m. yesterday. Pollster Tony Fabrizio said 44 percent of those surveyed were students and 97 percent disapproved of President Barack Obama’s performance.

--With assistance from Kristin Jensen, Greg Giroux, Stephanie Armour and Eric Martin in Washington. Editors: Robin Meszoly, Jim McDonald

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net; Lorraine Woellert in Washington at lwoellert@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net


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