Mitt Romney’s presidential hopes have taken another bashing as his victory in the Maine caucuses was snatched from him pending a recount which will not be announced for more than three weeks.
Under-fire party chairman Charlie Webster, who initially insisted that despite irregularities in the count, Romney would still win, said new figures would not be released until after a Republican State Committee meeting on March 10, nearly a month after the vote was supposed to have concluded.
The decision robs Romney of some of his bragging rights, at least temporarily, as he can now only say that he has won three states in the primary season, compared to four won by Rick Santorum and one by Newt Gingrich.
The fiasco in Maine follows problems in two other states that use the caucus systems and has cast doubt on the whole process. In Iowa, Romney’s initial slender victory was overturned in favor of Santorum, while in Nevada the result was delayed for hours.
Figures for Washington County, which is due to hold its caucuses on Saturday after postponing them for a week due to a threatened snow storm, will be considered for inclusion in the final tally, Webster said.
The count in the Pine Tree State involves fewer than 6,000 votes. In the initial count Romney beat Ron Paul by 194. The caucus results are non-binding.
In a statement posted on the Maine GOP website on Thursday, Webster said, “We have worked diligently to contact town chairmen throughout Maine to reconfirm the results of their individual caucuses.”
He said the results from Washington County would be “reviewed” by the state’s party committee and said the executive committee had voted unanimously to recommend they should be included.
He said the totals, “once confirmed” would be posted on the Maine Republican Party website, which on Friday was still dominated by the headline “Mitt Romney Wins Maine Caucus.”
Complaints started to flood in soon after the caucuses ended on Saturday. Republican Party members in both Waldo County and the town of Waterville complained that their votes had not been included in the official tallies.
On Tuesday the Waldo County party passed a vote proposing a censure of Webster for his handling of the vote.
As late as Thursday, Webster was insisting that any changes in the figures would not alter the overall result. “There were clerical errors that did not significantly change the numbers,” he told Politico. “There were several smaller towns that were left out, the reporting was wrong.
“We’ve corrected those clerical errors and will send those numbers out,” Webster added. “You get people complaining about Waldo County. We’re talking 120 votes, and most of them went to Santorum.”
He said some of the problems were caused because emails from some caucuses ended up in the spam baskets of the state system.
Webster also attacked Paul supporters as “conspiracy theorists,” telling Politico that in Portland, the official figures had Paul winning by 15 votes, when, in fact, Romney had had that margin of victory.
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