Maine's Voting Contest: A Lazy Caucus in Vacationland

Joel Page / AP Photo

On Saturday evening, the Maine Republican Party will announce the results of its  state's caucus. But to refer to  Saturday as the date of Maine's caucus would  be incorrect.

While the GOP candidates and the media  have focused much of the  attention over the past week on Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Arizona,  a voting contest has been under way in Vacationland since Saturday, Feb. 4.

Maine hosts a "lazy caucus."

The state's Republican Party requested that Maine's counties and municipalities  hold their caucus events sometime between Feb. 4 and Feb. 11. The majority of the state's events have been slated for Feb. 11, but a couple of towns have already caucused.

Twenty- four delegates are at stake in Maine's contest, but none will be awarded on Saturday. In 2008, Mitt Romney won the state, which is close to  his home base of Massachusetts, with 52 percent of the vote. John McCain and Ron Paul finished in second and third place, with 22 percent and 18 percent of the vote respectively. Turnout was low in 2008 -  5,482 votes were cast, about 1 percent of the voting eligible population.

Though Democrats have carried the state in recent presidential elections, Maine is very much a "purple state." It has two Republican senators and a Republican governor, and their two House reps are  Democrats. Mainers pride themselves on their political independence, which makes Ron Paul a popular candidate.

Maine's caucus is open only to registered Republicans. But previously unregistered voters, and voters previously unaffiliated with a party, can register as  Republicans at the polls, which means that independent voters can participate in the event, and that helps Ron Paul.

In his speech to supporters  Tuesday night as he came  off his second- place finish in Minnesota, Paul said he expected to do well in the state.

Because the Maine Republican Party will release the statewide results of the caucus in bulk on Saturday evening, there will not be the same ability to monitor the various counties for a sense of how the race is going.

The end of Maine's caucus week marks the start of a quiet period in the primary schedule. The next primaries will be Arizona and Michigan, and they don't take  place until the pentultimate day of  the month, Feb. 28.