PORTLAND, Maine — Ron Paul supporters in Maine, who less than two weeks ago staged what has been called a takeover of the state GOP convention, said they continue to stand behind the presidential hopeful even after he announced Monday he will not spend more money in pursuit of state primary victories.
In Maine, where the Texas congressman has built a fervent base of supporters, at least 20 of the state’s 24 delegates to the Republican National Convention will carry Paul banners. Many of those delegates told the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday the libertarian-leaning candidate’s Monday announcement has been widely misconstrued as a declaration he is ending his campaign.
In an email to supporters Monday, Paul urged his backers to remain involved in politics and to champion his causes.
“Moving forward, however, we will no longer spend resources campaigning in primaries in states that have not yet voted,” Paul said in his statement. “Doing so with any hope of success would take many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have.”
“I encourage all supporters of liberty to make sure you get to the polls and make your voices heard, particularly in the local, state and congressional elections, where so many defenders of freedom are fighting and need your support,” he added.
“There was such a gross amount of media misrepresentation [Monday],” said Matthew McDonald, a delegate from Belfast and Paul supporter since 2007. “Any person with a fifth-grade education could read that [letter] and say, ‘He’s not quitting the campaign, he’s just not going to spend money on the primary states.’ But if you’ve been following him, you’d have seen that that’s been his campaign strategy all along, to focus on caucuses and conventions and earn as many delegates as he can.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is widely considered the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. He was declared Maine’s top choice by the party establishment after edging Paul in a February presidential preference poll taken during municipal caucuses statewide.
But Paul said it was premature to put Maine in Romney’s win column, with the poll results trumpeted before several communities had a chance to caucus, casting initial doubt on the process.
Paul backers then filled the party convention on May 5 and 6, voting supporters Brent Tweed and Ron Morrell into the convention chairman and secretary positions, respectively. Under their watch, champions of Paul were tapped for at least 20 of the state’s delegate spots.
In states which hold caucuses, party members show support for nominees in open floor votes cast during community-level meetings. Most states hold primaries, in which party members go to the polls and cast secret ballots for their nominees — in many cases, delegates in primary states are pledged to the winner at the polls.
In caucus states, Paul has built his delegate count by organizing supportive rallies in local and state conventions — ensuring advocates for the congressman are chosen for the delegate posts — even after failing to win majorities in the caucuses. Paul is slated to speak this weekend in Minnesota, for instance, where he finished second in the February caucuses but will be represented by 18 of the state’s 24 delegates at the national convention thanks to strong showings in the state’s subsequent county conventions.
Ashley Ryan of South Portland, who was elected Maine’s new Republican National Committeewoman during the Paul-dominated convention here, said the congressman’s announcement Monday signals simply that he’s focusing on caucus states — like Maine — not that he’s waving the white flag.
“What we did in Maine has always been the goal,” she said. “The national campaign helped us out tremendously to get organized, but it really wasn’t about campaign advertising or videos. It was word of mouth, people volunteering, making phone calls and going door-to-door. Instead of spending few resources on the primary states, we’re devoting our efforts toward caucuses and conventions.”
“The strategy all along has been to accumulate as many delegates as possible,” said Pete “the Carpenter” Harring, a Paul delegate from Auburn who is credited with founding the Maine Tea Party. “I believe not spending money on primaries that may or may not ultimately benefit Ron Paul is the right idea.”
Bryan Dougherty of Bangor, another Paul delegate to the national convention, said the message of limited government embodied by the congressman has too much momentum to halt now.
“He’s already garnered a lot of delegates from a lot of states,” he told the BDN on Monday. “To throw money at television ads in primary states is kind of a waste in when it can be used to make sure we have parliamentarians at the conventions.”
According to The Associated Press, Romney has secured 973 of the 1,144 delegates necessary to become the party’s official nominee to challenge Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama in the fall. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tallied 264 delegates and 130 delegates, respectively, before they dropped out of the race. Paul is now carrying 104 delegates.
All states and U.S. territories which hold caucuses already have done so. However, after Nebraska and Oregon on Tuesday, nine more states are scheduled to hold primaries between May 22 and June 26.
Ryan said Paul shouldn’t be counted out. She took a confident tone when describing the impact of Paul’s decision to step back from primaries.
“Once we win the nomination, we’ll have that much more money saved for the fall campaign,” Ryan said.