The national political spotlight turned to Maine on Saturday as the Maine Republican Party (GOP) caucuses across the state decided how the state’s 23 Republican National Convention delegates will be allocated. Caucus locations across Maine saw record turnout, with over 18,600 Maine republicans showing up to caucus, more than three times the number of Maine GOP caucus-goers in 2012.
Ted Cruz, who visited Maine the day before the March 5 caucus, won nearly 46% of the vote, besting Donald Trump’s 32.6% and John Kasich’s 12.2%. Marco Rubio finished a distant fourth with only 8% of the vote, falling short of the 10% threshold needed to earn delegates. Had Cruz achieved over 50% of the vote, he would have been awarded all of Maine’s 23 delegates, but given the results, Cruz received 12 delegates, 9 were awarded to Trump and 2 to Kasich.
Given Governor Paul R. LePage’s endorsement of Trump for President, which prompted Trump to visit Portland and campaign with LePage on March 4, some were surprised by the Cruz victory in Maine’s caucuses. However, Cruz had received endorsements from many Maine state legislators, and had a strong campaign organization heading into the caucuses.
The record turnout and national attention for Maine’s republican presidential nominating caucuses follows a move by Maine GOP leaders to emphasize Maine’s role in the nominating effort by moving the date to the Saturday immediately following “Super Tuesday” and binding the state’s delegates vote in the first ballot based on the caucus results. In prior years, delegates were selected in June at the party’s statewide convention.
Following Cruz’s victory in Maine on Saturday, attention quickly shifted to the Sunday caucuses of the Maine Democratic Party, where Bernie Sanders had been predicted to handily defeat Hillary Clinton. Despite reported logistical snags administering the caucuses, results were available soon after caucusing ended, showing that Sanders handily defeated Clinton with over 64% of voted compared to just over 35% for Clinton. Like Cruz and Trump, Sanders visited Maine for a campaign rally in the week leading up to the caucus, and even dispatched high profile surrogate Susan Sarandon to Maine on his behalf.
While the 2016 nominating contest is far from over, one thing is clear; during this one weekend in March, Maine commanded the political spotlight and played an important role in advancing the process of selecting the next President of the United States.