Photo: Gage Skidmore
After stumbling last week in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, Mitt Romney got a boost Saturday from a caucus victory in Maine and a straw poll win at an influential conservative conference.
With 84 percent of precincts reporting, Romney was declared the winner in Maine’s nonbinding caucuses, leading Ron Paul 39-36 percent. Rick Santorum, who pulled off a three-state sweep last week, finished a distant third at 18 percent. Newt Gingrich was last at 6 percent.
“I thank the voters of Maine for their support,” Romney said in a statement Saturday. “I’m committed to turning around America. And I’m heartened to have the support of so many good people in this great state.”
Meanwhile, Romney led the field of Republican contenders in a straw poll at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., with 38 percent of the vote. Santorum placed second at 31 percent, followed by Gingrich at 15 percent and Paul at 12 percent.
Both victories are largely symbolic for Romney. Fewer than 6,000 votes were cast in Maine, without any delegate allocation directly linked to the outcome. About 3,400 CPAC attendees took part in that conference’s straw poll.
But the results come at a time when the Romney campaign is looking for any traction in the race as Santorum is on the rise and key primaries await at the end of the month in Arizona and Michigan. A poll released Saturday by Public Policy Polling finds Santorum leading Romney nationally, 38-23 percent.
That survey also shows Santorum as the favorite of 51 percent of tea party voters, and Romney a distant third at 12 percent, following Gingrich at 24 percent. Thus, Romney’s straw poll win at CPAC could be vital to him shoring up conservative support going into the crucial Mar. 6 Super Tuesday when 10 states hold their caucuses or primaries.