BANGOR, Maine — President Barack Obama had an early lead in election results Tuesday night, even in the 2nd Congressional District, where the Romney campaign hoped to pick up an electoral vote.
Republicans in Maine and beyond were looking for Mitt Romney to make history Tuesday night by winning the 2nd District and for the first time ever splitting Maine’s four electoral votes. However, Obama held the lead throughout Maine in early results, even in the state’s more conservative rural areas.
As of 9:30 p.m., with 5 percent of precincts reporting statewide, Obama led Romney by a margin of 55 percent to 42 percent. Obama also held an early lead in the 2nd District, garnering 56 percent of the vote.
But Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster said northern Maine has leaned right of center for years, a fact he said he expects to become crystal clear Tuesday night.
“I don’t believe Maine is a blue state,” he said. “I expect that the Democrats after this election will have to reassess whether they’re still pertinent in Maine anymore.”
Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said the prospect of Romney winning the 2nd District amounts to wishful thinking.
“I’m pretty confident that all of Maine’s electoral votes will go to the president,” said Grant. “The Republicans try to sow the seeds of this story every election year.”
Maine has one of the more storied electoral college histories in the nation. When it became a state in 1820, Maine had nine electoral votes — and 10 in 1832, 1836 and 1840, But that number began to dwindle during the 19th century and by 1964, according to a history of the state at www.270towin.com, Maine had its current apportionment of four electoral votes. Because of the Census electoral vote reapportionment in 2010, Maine will remain at four electoral votes at least through the 2020 presidential election.
Maine and Nebraska are the only states in the country that do not automatically award all their electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes in the state. In Maine, the statewide winner receives two electoral votes and the winners in the 1st and 2nd Congressional districts receive one additional vote each. Since the process was established in 1972, Maine has never split its electoral vote, although there is often speculation that this will happen.
Maine voted primarily Republican from the Civil War through the 1980s, voting for Democrats in the presidential election only in 1912, 1964 and 1968. However, Maine has voted for the Democratic candidate in the five presidential elections since 1992, including in 2000 and 2004, when Republican George W. Bush won the national election.
In the four elections prior to Tuesday, Republicans have had a difficult time with Maine’s popular vote. The GOP garnered 31 percent of the Maine vote in 1996; 44 percent in 2000; 45 percent in 2004; and 40 percent in 2008. Democrats earned at least 49 percent of the vote in those elections.
Though Maine’s 1st District has been a virtual lock for Obama, according to polling this year, the Second District has been much closer. Republican nominee Romney has polled within in a few percentage points of Obama in the northern part of the state, with a split of 50 percent for Obama and 47 percent for Romney in a November 2 poll by Gravis Marketing, which based its results on a survey of 509 likely voters. That was within the poll’s margin of error. A Nov. 4 Critical Insights poll, which surveyed 613 likely voters statewide, found that 49 percent of Mainers said they would vote for Obama, with 42 percent saying they supported Romney. Nine percent said they were undecided or favored other candidates. In a statewide Nov. 2 poll of a much larger sample — 1,633 likely voters — Public Policy Polling found that 55 percent of respondents supported Obama compared to 42 percent for Romney.
Last year, lawmakers approved a redistricting plan that made the 2nd District slightly more Republican, moving about 2,500 GOP voters into the northern district. The slight shift in district boundaries, passed by lawmakers in September 2011, was much less drastic than the original redistricting plan pushed by Republican lawmakers. The two districts needed to be reconfigured based on 2010 U.S. Census population numbers.