GOP challenger Mitt Romney could have an ace in the hole to counter President Barack Obama if the election comes down to one electoral vote, in the form of a gift from Maine.
More attention has been given to Omaha, Nebraska, as the X-factor in the election, since Nebraska has a system of proportional electoral votes, and President Obama could steal one electoral vote from Romney by taking the vote in Warren Buffet’s home town.
Maine is the other state, in addition to Nebraska, where not all the electoral votes for a state go to the presidential candidate with the most statewide votes. (The U.S. Constitution allows each state to decide how to allocate electors.)
Maine’s rural 2nd Congressional District, which includes Bangor and Lewiston, is the largest district, in land mass, east of the Mississippi River. Until now, Lewiston was best known as the home of the second Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston fight.
If the general election comes down to a single electoral vote or two, like the 1876 and 2000 elections, Lewiston could see another influx of reporters as both parties look at the ballots closely.
The 2nd Congressional District has gone to the Democrats in the past five presidential elections. Olympia Snowe was the last GOP candidate to win a U.S. House seat in the district, back in 1992.
However, in 2000, Al Gore only beat George W. Bush by 1 percent in the 2nd District vote. President Obama won by 12 percent in 2008.
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But there have been some changes in the past four years. Redistricting moved two areas that were heavily Democratic into Maine’s 1st Congressional District.
Throwing fuel on the fire was a set of poll results released to Politico from American Crossroads, the GOP-affiliated super PAC, that showed Romney with a lead in the 2nd District.
Another poll from the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, taken in September, showed Obama with a 5-point lead over Romney in the 2nd District, compared with a 25 percent lead in the 1st District.
That poll was taken well before presidential debate season began.
As of Thursday, The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog wasn’t buying the premise of a Romney win in rural Maine, saying there was an 85 percent probability of an Obama win in the 2nd District.
But in its own calculation of odds, the blog says it is Maine, not Nebraska, that’s most likely to cast that one dissenting electoral vote.
In its Return on Investment Index, Maine is ranked eight among all prospective states that could decide the election. Nevada and Ohio are ranked as the states with the highest chances of swinging the election.
Maine is ranked ahead of Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan as states that could be game changers, a fact that should at least encourage some election forecasters to place Maine in the list of swing states, or battleground states for the election.
In terms of TV ad spending, The Washington Post says the Democrats have outspent the GOP by a three-to-one margin in the state.
One biggest recent ad buy in Maine was for the Republicans, targeting the favorite in the race to replace Snowe in the U.S. Senate.
Crossroads GPS, another GOP-leaning super PAC, will spend $309,000 in ads attacking Angus King, the Independent candidate for Senate, and not targeting Obama.
Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of the National Constitution Center.