Inquisitive reporters from all over the country have been calling me for the past two weeks, desperate to know what to expect in the Maine GOP caucuses this weekend.
It has been somewhat amusing to walk the uninitiated through the intricacies of Maine Republican Party politics, if for no other reason than it has proven to me that no one else in the country really pays much attention to the political goings on here.
But, that is changing. At least briefly.
Indeed, intrepid gumshoes from the Associated Press, Reuters, Washington Post, Politico and a whole host of other news gatherers are descending upon the Pine Tree State over the next few days, hoping to cover a shockingly interesting race.
So what are these folks from away so excited about?
They think Ron Paul might win the Maine caucus. And, it is true, he might. If he does, they’ll have a political story to really spill some ink on.
Let me preface by saying that I don’t actually think Paul will win. This is still Romney’s state to lose: it is a New England neighbor to his native Massachusetts, he has spent real resources organizing for the Maine caucus, and most of the GOP establishment in the state is behind him. On top of that, his moderate, reasonable profile fits right in to the personality of the state.
But I’ve been getting a lot of emails and text messages lately from nervous Romney-philes, openly worried about the results, and the possibility that their man Mitt may meander mindlessly amid a monsoon of momentum for the magnanimous and methodical man of the moment, Ron Paul.
Or, put more simply, after seeing Romney shellacked on Tuesday in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, and seeing the growing and enthusiastic support for Paul at the weeklong Maine caucus, his victory is no longer secure.
If Paul were to win, it wouldn’t all be Romney’s fault. Quietly, the Paul team has been whispering amongst themselves that Maine is their chance to actually win a race. Up until now, the Paulian wins were all symbolic, entirely a matter of coming in second place, or overperforming expectations.
But in Maine, his campaign has rightly identified an opportunity. This is, after all, a state that just loves authentic, anti-establishment, independent-minded, against the grain, nontraditional candidates. Maine likes independent candidates who reject party politics, and they also like party politicians who thumb their nose at their own kind.
Maine likes the person who marches to the beat of his or her own drummer, does what he or she thinks is right, and is beholden to no one. Maine likes honesty in the face of demagoguery, and the courage to go against the grain.
All of those things describe Ron Paul, so it is no surprise he is going to do well in Maine when all is said and done.
So will Paul take advantage of his opportunity?
Honestly, we just don’t know, and that is why so many national reporters are flooding into town this weekend.
If I were a betting man, which I am not, I would still probably put money down on Romney winning. But I have to be honest with you, I’d be more comfortable investing my money with Bernie Madoff than I would be betting on this race.
Remember that Maine was the state that gave Ross Perot more than 30 percent of the vote in 1992, allowing him to finish ahead of a sitting United States president who essentially lived in the state.
On election day, I can see Romney winning by 15 points. I can also see him losing by five.
If the latter happens, these reporters will have a wild story to write.
Matthew Gagnon, a Hampden native, is a Republican political strategist. He previously worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read his blog at www.pinetreepolitics.com.