Mitt Romney scored a narrow victory over Ron Paul in Maine's Republican presidential caucuses Saturday, avoiding an embarrassing setback in his bid for the GOP nomination. Romney received 39 percent of the vote to Paul's 36 percent.
Rick Santorum finished third, with 18 percent, and Newt Gingrich finished fourth, with 6 percent.
Maine's 24 delegates are not allocated by the results of the caucuses, but Romney and Paul stepped up their efforts to win the state in recent days, trying to score an important symbolic victory. For Romney, who won the state easily--with 52 percent of the vote--in 2008, a win in Maine could help him rebound from Tuesday's three-state loss to Rick Santorum.
Turnout was low: Only 2,290 people voted for Romney, 1,996 voted for Paul, 989 voted for Santorum, and 349 voted for Gingrich.
For Paul, the state was a chance to prove he could actually win a statewide contest during the 2012 campaign, after disappointing finishes in Iowa and Nevada—two states where, along with Maine, Paul dedicated lots of time, money and effort.
The race was long a showdown between Romney and Paul, as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich chose not to compete in the state. Romney advisers initially regarded Maine as an easy victory and indicated their candidate wouldn't spend much time in the state.
But Romney made a last-minute visit to the state on Friday, and on Saturday he visited two caucus sites—something he has rarely done on Election Day in other states.
The race now shifts to two key states that are considered a must-win by the Romney campaign: Arizona and Michigan, which will hold primaries on Feb. 28.
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