FALMOUTH, Maine - He may have yet to secure a win, but Ron Paul is not without a strategy.
In a word, it is caucuses.
While he has ignored big primary states such as South Carolina and Florida, the Texas congressman is banking on ginning up support from his often youthful and always faithful backers in targeted cheaper-to-win caucuses, such as Nevada’s tomorrow, Maine’s from tomorrow to Feb. 11, Colorado’s and Minnesota’s on Feb. 7, and Washington state’s on March 3.
Caucuses are thought to offer Paul the greatest leverage because they tend to be sparsely attended by the most motivated voters - meaning that highly organized campaigns like Paul’s have the advantage.
“We will be going to the caucus states, and we will be promoting the whole idea of getting more delegates, because that’s the name of the game and we will pursue it,’’ Paul told supporters in South Carolina after his defeat there.
The approach was employed by President Obama, who also had a tightly organized, deeply committed bench of supporters, and benefited from momentum coming out of Maine and other caucus states.
Paul is unlikely to gather enough delegates to claim the nomination. But a significant number of delegates from caucus states could give him a voice at the Republican National Convention in Tampa and put his libertarian ideas on the table for consideration, observers say.
“He wants to affect the Republican platform on some of the issues that he thinks are critical - among them the federal reserve system,’’ said L. Sandy Maisel, a government professor at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, referring to Paul’s calls for the abolition of the Federal Reserve.
Here in Maine, Paul’s caucus efforts are on display in a small storefront in the back of a strip mall on busy Route 1 in this bedroom community of Portland. A recent weekday found two 20-something campaign workers hunched over laptops in the spare space.
They declined to talk with a reporter, citing an impending meeting. National campaign officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The Newt Gingrich and the Rick Santorum campaigns have not been active in Maine.
The Paul campaign has work to do. Mitt Romney won the caucuses here in 2008, and this go-round Romney has the support of some 75 percent of elected Republicans, according to the state Republican Party (though Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe have not endorsed any candidate). Paul is not benefiting from media buzz after coming in last place in South Carolina and Florida.
Meanwhile, a sampling of a dozen voters turned up few planned caucus-goers.
And like the Paul campaign, Romney workers have been calling potential voters, encouraging them to caucus.
But Romney has not been to the state and has no immediate plans to visit; Paul swung through last weekend, drawing sizeable crowds in Freeport and other locations.
Even before this, Paul’s campaign had clinched the caucus vote of Alex Lyscars.
Lyscars is a 21-year-old college student who hails from a long line of Democrats, including 19th-century President Grover Cleveland, his great grandfather.
Lyscars was a registered Democrat but changed his party this year so that he could vote for Paul.
“I think of Ron Paul as a bit of an awkward jump to go to,’’ he said. “But it was like hitting the panic button.’’
Lyscars said he has grown increasingly concerned about President Obama’s foreign policy and his extension of the war in Afghanistan and backs Paul’s insistence on reduced foreign entanglements.
Lyscars said he will not vote for Obama, even if Paul loses the nomination.
Likewise, Alex Greenlee, a 23-year-old college student, said he enthusiastically backs Paul because he has been steady in his positions, even if he does not agree with all of them, such as Paul’s push to repeal Roe v. Wade.
“I like him more as a person than his policies,’’ Greenlee said.
But Greenlee will not caucus for Paul. He is a registered Democrat and as such can not participate in the Republican caucuses.
Maine Republican Party officials are hoping their caucuses this year will have more impact on the national race than in years past because voting will be more concentrated.
Caucuses must be held by March 20, a timeline that has led to a staggered and lengthy process with results announced after most other states had concluded voting.
This year, the party is urging local party committees to caucus between Feb. 4 and Feb. 11, providing two Saturdays on which voters can caucus. The results of the caucusing - which is a preference vote; the state’s 24 delegates are chosen at the state convention in May - will be announced at an event in Portland on Feb. 11.
“There will be a gigantic party,’’ said Charlie Webster, the Republican Party state chair.
Having the results announced well in advance of Super Tuesday on March 6, Webster said, will help make the results in Maine more relevant on a national level.
Observers are skeptical of that claim; with a small number of delegates at stake, it is unlikely Maine will swing the nomination.
For Paul supporters, the Maine caucuses remain a happy hunting ground.
“The conservative support will likely be split among the candidates so there is an opportunity for Ron Paul supporters to use the caucuses to gain attention for Ron Paul,’’ said Anthony Corrado, a government professor at Colby.
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