Although I have been a student of the American electoral process for a while, it is only in the past few weeks, while covering the unexpectedly lively 2012 Republican Presidential Primary that I have realized just what a patchwork of processes are taken by various states. The largest difference being that between primaries and caucuses, but even within those two broad categories, there are many variations.
In Maine, the caucuses are held over more than a week, with different precincts holding them at different times. So over the past few days, while Nevada, Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado were all voting and making headlines, people were meeting quietly in Maine and deciding on who to cast their votes for.
The results, released on Saturday the 11th of February, are a win by Mitt Romney, with a close second by Ron Paul. The other two candidates, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, came in a distant third and fourth. Since Maine, like other early voting states, has allocated its proportionately, Romney and Paul will probably end up getting the same amount of delegates.
As a note that I should have added before now, but haven't because the whole thing is too confusing, all of the caucuses so far have been non-binding, meaning the stated voting totals won't necessarily indicate how many delegates each candidate gets, because they are actually having the real meetings later on, but usually no one really cares, but this year it is different for reasons I will go into later, once I have figured it out, and I am going to end this run-on paragraph to go back to the Maine caucus results.
Either Romney or Paul was expected to win the Maine caucuses, and Romney ended up winning by a small margin. Although the margin he won means very little in "real" terms, the stewards and keepers of "momentum" will be happy to know that this, the last contest for about two weeks, was won by Romney. Also, Paul's chances of getting a victory and gaining momentum seem to be curtailed, because Maine was expected to be one of the states that would be most sympathetic to Paul's politics. So it seems now that Paul and his libertarian-leaning supporters will have to make do with getting delegates through 2nd and 3rd place finishes.
There were very few surprises in Maine, and as we go into a two-week lull in the campaign, it looks like the situation is still at a stalemate.
Next stop: The Northern Mariana Islands!