Now Electoral College fans: The Maine event
There are scenarios where both W. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama tie each other with 269 electoral votes, but those scenarios assume Obama gets all four votes from Maine.
What if he does not?
Megan Sanborn, a special assistant to the Maine Secretary of State, said the state does not award its four electoral votes the same as 48 other states.
Like Nebraska, Maine can split its votes, she said. The popular vote decides by congressional district and statewide, which party’s slate of electors vote in the Electoral College, the actual election for president.
In Maine this means that the electors from each of the two congressional districts are separate from the statewide race, she said. The statewide popular vote decides the party that receives the remaining two electoral votes.
Although the popular vote decides what party’s electors participate in the Electoral College, Maine does not bind its electors, so the whoever the electors are, they are free to vote for whomever they please, she said.
Since the state adopted the new process in 2003, it has not yet split its electoral votes, she said.
Matthew Gagnon, a columnist for the Bangor Daily News and the author of the Pine Tree Politics blog said, “Right now it looks like if Romney ends up winning anything in Maine, it will probably be the 2nd Congressional District, so he will get one electoral vote out of it.”
There are two Maines that are split roughly along the same lines of the congressional districts, he said. The 1st Congressional District is centered on Portland and the coast. It is full of former Massachusetts residents, who consider Maine a suburb of Boston.
While Maine-1 is very liberal and Democratic-leaning, Maine-2 is more rural and Republican, he said.
“North and central Maine is full of woods and lumberjacks,” said Gagnon, who started his blog when he moved to Washington as a way to keep in touch with developments in Vacationland.
“It is the rest of the state, where I grew with the craftsman and the blue collar folks,” he said. “They are a lot more entrepreneurial, and a lot more conservative, both culturally and fiscally.”
“He could really pull it off,” he said. “It is a definite possibility. Restore our Future, Romney’s super PAC, has put in $300,000, so they are making somewhat of a play at it.”
Mainers get a kick out of their different way of doing things, he said.
“It is kind of a wonky arrangement, but Mainers pride themselves on being quirky and different,” he said.
Polls show Nebraska voters supporting Romney over Obama by 12 to 17 points, but a number of polls show Romney beating Obama in Maine-2.
Gagnon said another Maine tradition is ticket-splitting.
It would not surprise Gagnon if Maine voters chose Romney and still voted in favor of the gay marriage referendum, or in favor of a Democrat running for congress or the senate, he said.
Maine will not go for Romney statewide, but it could have been in play if Romney had devoted time and resources there, Gagnon said. “It hasn’t been a swing state for pretty much the whole election, and he’s been much more worried about Ohio, Virginia and Florida.”
Paul T. Conway, the president of Washington-based Generation Opportunity, said a poll his organization released Oct. 29 found Maine’s 18 to 29-year-olds are in a sour mood, which could be a factor as Romney contests for Maine-2.
The veteran of more than a hundred political campaigns said the young dynamic in Maine makes its process for awarding electoral votes even more interesting.
Maine will play a strategic role in choosing the next president if it continues to be a close race, he said.
“In a close or contested situation, the 2nd District of Maine, and who sits in that seat will become very influential, if the election goes to the House,” he said.
If no presidential candidate reaches 270 electoral votes, the election is moved to the House of Representatives, where each delegation votes amongst itself for its state’s vote. In this new election the next president needs 26 of 50 votes.
Conway, who grew up in Belfast, Maine after his father retired from the Navy, said 74 percent of Maine Millennials plan to vote in the election this year, but only 25 percent believe today’s political leaders care about their interests.
“We were interested in what does it mean there for young people in 2012, when they are trying to figure out some of these key decisions, how they are actually thinking about the economy, Washington, and what they think it will take to jumpstart businesses and enterprise,” he said.
Only 26 percent of the Maine Millennials believe the country is going in the right direction, he said.
More concerning it that 82 percent of young Mainers have put off life plans and goals because of the poor national economy, he said.
Generation Opportunity, which has roughly 20,000 followers in Maine, is a non-partisan group, so it did not ask who the young Mainers would chose in the presidential election, but there are lessons in the poll for both men, said Conway, who has worked in presidential administrations, including tenure as chief of staff to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and as a DHS agency chief of staff for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
“Here’s exactly what’s going on,” he said. “In 2008, President Obama spoke to the hopes and aspirations of young adults, and he encouraged them to become involved in the political process.”
Obama did extremely well with 18 to 29-year-olds, he said.
“Here we are now four years later and institutions like Gallup, for example, have said that the president has witnessed the largest drop in support among any age demographic of any sitting president in history among young people,” he said.
Conway said the reason is because young people are not getting meaningful jobs or seeing a better future for America.
“The president has an opportunity in the next seven days to re-engage with those who supported him in 2008,” he said. “That is going to be a very tough hill to climb, he got 66 percent of the young vote in 2008, and he is sitting around 53 to 54 percent.”
For Romney, the opportunity to capture the support of young people in Maine and across the country is better, because the former business executive has experience creating jobs that the president does not, he said.