Why Ron Paul is shivering in Maine instead of cavorting in Florida

The other three GOP presidential candidates are stumping in Florida ahead of the Jan. 31 primary, a winner-take-all-delegates affair. But not Ron Paul. Here's why he's up in Maine.

Paul Sancya/AP
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, gestures during a Republican Presidential debate Monday Jan. 23, at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla.

What’s Ron Paul up to? The other three GOP presidential candidates are focusing their efforts on Florida in advance of the Sunshine State’s Jan. 31 primary. But Mr. Paul is taking two days this week to go in the other direction. He’ll be in Maine, speaking at Colby College on Friday and the University of Maine’s Gorham campus on Saturday, among other possible appearances.

Why Maine? It’s no secret that Paul is giving Florida a pass, because ad time there is expensive and the state’s electorate skews older, which is not Paul’s best demographic. The Texas libertarian is focusing on caucus states such as Maine and Nevada, where his fervent supporters can more easily out-organize the competition.

But here’s something that has been little noticed in the press: Maine’s caucuses actually begin this weekend. So Paul may be pulling something of an end run about his rivals.

Yes, we know, if you look at the Maine Republican Party’s website, it lists Feb. 11 as the date officials will announce the results of a caucus presidential straw poll.

But if you scroll through the details, you’ll see that the party has established a window of Feb. 4-11 for Maine Republicans to caucus and vote for a presidential nominee and delegates to the state convention. And if you really squint and look at the fine print, you’ll note that the party faithful in some towns have ignored this guidance, and are meeting either before or after the February window.

Lincoln, Lowell, Burlington, Chester, Enfield, Winn, and Howland are holding their joint caucus on Saturday, for example. Millinocket’s is on Sunday (it’s at the Snowmobile Club). Castine’s is not until March 3.

We’re not the only commentator to have noticed this. Josh Putnam, a political scientist at Davidson College who specializes in the election process, discussed this development on his Frontloading HQ blog on Wednesday.

Maine’s situation “is unique, but it isn’t unprecedented,” wrote Mr. Putnam. Caucus states sometimes spread out their process down at the precinct or county level.

“Now, which candidate will make a last minute trip up to Penobscot County before Saturday?” Putnam asked, rhetorically.

We can answer that, can’t we? It’s Paul.

Of course, the stakes are higher in Florida, a winner-take-all primary with a prize of 50 delegates, than Maine, where caucusgoers will select 24 delegates statewide and vote in a nonbinding presidential straw poll. That’s why Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are battling it out down south. We’re sure it has nothing to do with the weather in Miami versus in Penobscot County, where this time last year it was about 14 below. That’s so cold that when you talk outdoors adverbs freeze and fall to the ground before they can find their proper place in a sentence.

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