Breaking News: Romney wins Maine caucus, McCain 2nd, Paul 3rd
Former Gov. Mitt Romney convincingly won the Maine Republican caucus tonight with about 52% of the vote.
The current GOP front-runner, Arizona Sen. John McCain, is running a distant second with 22% and Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-minded longshot, is in a very close third with 19% of the vote. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is trailing badly with only 5%.
With nearly two-thirds of the votes counted, Maine Republican Party Vice Chairman Scott Kauffman said, "It is very sure that former Gov. Romney wins the contest."
Although Maine does not carry the political clout of many other states, it could provide a helpful psychological boost going into nearly two dozen crucial Super Tuesday contests this week for Romney's forces, who lost to McCain in Florida, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Nearly half the delegates necessary to win the Republican nomination will be chosen Tuesday.
In a statement tonight, Romney, who was campaigning today in the upper Midwest after attending the funeral of Gordon Hinckley, the president of the Mormon church, in Salt Lake City, said, "Today the people of Maine joined those from across the nation in casting their vote for conservative change in Washington."
The actual number of Maine delegates he won in the non-binding caucuses will be determined at a state convention in May.
It was a disappointing night for Ron Paul. The campaign of the 72-year-old, 10-term congressman from Texas with the well-financed campaign had hoped to pull an upset in independent-minded Maine. And he did come close to embarrassing McCain for second place, which Paul also won in the Louisiana and Nevada caucuses.
Maine Democrats hold their statewide caucuses next weekend.
-- Andrew Malcolm