Mitt Romney Claims Victory in Maine Caucuses

(Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo)

Less than two hours after he was declared the winner of the Conservative Political Action Conference's straw poll today, Mitt Romney was declared the winner of Maine's caucuses with 39 percent of the vote.

The victories marked a positive end to what had been a bad week for the former Massachusetts governor. After losing the caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, two states that he carried in 2008, Romney was able to break his streak and regain some of that momentum by carrying Maine for the second primary cycle in a row.

"I thank the voters of Maine for their support" Romney said in a paper statement. "I'm committed to turning around America. And I'm heartened to have the support of so many good people in this great state."

The results, as expected, were close. Ron Paul came in second place with 36 percent. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich came in third and fourth place, with 18 percent and 6 percent respectively. Maine holds 24 delegates, but they will not be awarded until May.

Turnout was low in the caucus, though essentially unchanged from 2008. There were 5,585 votes cast over the course of the week-long caucuses - about 1 percent of the voting-eligible population. In 2008, 5,482 votes were cast.

The second place finish is a disappointment for Ron Paul. The Texas congressman, who had acknowledged that he needed a win in order to remain a credible candidate for the nomination, said he believed Maine was likely his best hope for such a victory, in part because of the state's strong independent streak.

Though Romney spent Friday evening and Saturday morning hosting events in Maine, Paul had spent more time stumping in the state than any of his GOP opponents. He was the only candidate in the state when the caucus results were announced.

Paul stated his disappointment when he addressed supporters at his Maine headquarters in Portland this evening, but he predicted that he will ultimately take the majority of delegate support when the state selects its delegates to the Republican National Convention. Paul also vowed to keep on going.

"It would have been great to win outright, but it'll even be better to win the delegates," Paul said. "Momentum is going to continue, we're not going away."

The end of Maine's caucus marks the beginning of a two-week break from voting contests. Arizona and Michigan are the next two primaries on the calendar; both states will host their contests on Feb. 28.