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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Awaiting Results of Maine Caucuses; Romney Wins Maine Caucuses; Ron Paul Remarks; Ron Paul Interviewed
Aired February 11, 2012 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Clinton is now President Bill Clinton.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Barack Obama, President-Elect of the United States.
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BLITZER: The special coverage of the Maine caucuses. We're standing by to learn the results this hour.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, a new chance for an underdog to score and wrap up Mitt Romney.
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney's campaign has been about serially tearing down opponents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just days after Rick Santorum's stunning triple win, will Ron Paul pull off his first victory?
RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It must be a lot more fun believing in something than just campaigning for nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Maine's choice. The on and off frontrunner is on the attack after falling behind again.
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich, they are the very Republicans who acted like Democrats, and when Republicans act like Democrats, they lose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The candidate with the most wins under his belt, one stop brings Romney down.
SANTORUM: Mr. Private Sector was Mr. Big Government and he is actually running from the private sector.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newt Gingrich is taking his oldest son's future battleground.
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The world's counted us down before. We just regrouped.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four candidates fighting on.
ROMNEY: We'll keep on campaigning down the road, but I expect to become the nominee with your help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dozens of contests still ahead.
PAUL: There's a thing called delegates, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will a presidential race build with upsets unleash more shockwaves?
SANTORUM: I guess to being underestimated is a wonderful gift.
GINGRICH: At the rate we're going, we can have the first open convention since 1940.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The suspense is building. Expectations are crumbling and every step in this marathon matters.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
We're counting down to the results in Maine and we could learn those results within minutes. Our reporters are standing by, Shannon Travis is over at GOP Headquarters in Maine, where we will see the results announced. Mary Snow is over at Ron Paul's headquarters in Maine tonight.
We also have members of "The Best Political Team," Gloria Borger, Donna Brazile, David Frum, also David Gergen is joining us, and of course John King is standing by over at the magic wall to map out all the numbers for us, where we're going from here.
Let's go to Maine right now, Shannon Travis is over at GOP Headquarters. We will see the results announced fairly soon, Shannon, walk us through what's going on right now.
SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Yes. Let me just tell you first off, Wolf, that it's getting pretty crowded where I am.
This is the Portland Regency here in Portland, Maine, where they are going to be announcing the results. I'll just have my cameraman kind of pan over a little bit and show you what's going on. We have a lot of prominent Republicans and prominent Maine politics basically here enjoying themselves, but waiting just like the rest of us are for what those results will be.
And about under we expect between 15 and 20 minutes I'll have my cameraman pan back this way as well. You probably can't see just beyond, Wolf, is the podium, where Charlie Webster, who is the Republican Party Chairman in Maine here, he will go up there and he'll announce who actually won between Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, how he did, Newt Gingrich, how he did, and so we're all waiting with the rest of the people here on what those results might be, Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. We're going to have that live coverage coming up, Shannon, stand by.
I want to stay in Maine right now. Mary Snow is over at Ron Paul Headquarters in Portland, Maine. We're going to be speaking with Ron Paul shortly after the results are announced there, Mary. But tell us how the expectations are as far as a win, they need a win, the Ron Paul campaign, they haven't had one yet. Do they expect that he will get a win tonight?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ron Paul's been saying he's cautiously optimistic, and Wolf, he is the only presidential candidate in the state tonight waiting for those results. Personally, he has campaigned in this state more than any of the candidates. He is vying for those 21 delegates that are at stake, his ground operations began several months ago, and what he is saying is that Maine has prided itself on its independents and that is what Ron Paul is appealing to.
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PAUL: Less big government, sound money and even foreign policy, that many others have talked about and it seems to resonate here better than some of the other parts of the country.
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SNOW: Here at Ron Paul's headquarters in Portland, Maine, supporters are filling up this room. As you mentioned, he's expected to speak once those results come in and, you know, the supporters here, Wolf, are saying that they feel it is important for him to win, to gain momentum but just a short time ago when I spoke to the campaign, they are saying that they expect this to be very tight, perhaps fewer than 100 votes making the difference, Wolf?
BLITZER: We'll see how close it is. Mary, don't go too far away.
Mitt Romney did hit the Maine caucus sites earlier in the day, pulling for a much needed bounce after an embarrassing triple state loss to Rick Santorum earlier this week.
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ROMNEY: I want to go to Washington and in four to eight years, it sounds like a sentence, it's not. In four to eight years, I want to get this country on track again and I believe I can do that.
And I want to - I want to ask for your help today. If you haven't made up your mind I want to ask you if - I want to ask you and the people of Maine for your vote. If I - if I get your vote, it will help me become our nominee. If I become our nominee, I'm going to beat this guy and bring America back.
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BLITZER: Let's go to John King over at the magic wall for us. So, John, you'd think it would be a slam dunk for Mitt Romney tonight, two moderate Republican senators from Maine. He's from New England, neighboring Massachusetts, but not necessarily.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not necessarily. It's a quirky state.
You mentioned the two somewhat, say, liberal Republican senators but they also has a Tea Party Governor Paula Page. Maine is known for its quirky politics, independence of the governor of Maine, Wolf. It's an interesting state. There's a strong Ron Paul libertarian base.
As we wait for Maine to vote tonight, we wouldn't get county results tonight, it's a caucus state, and because it's a caucus state, that's one of the reasons the Romney people are a bit nervous because Ron Paul has done well in caucuses. Rick Santorum, I just heard your interview with him in the last hour, he's not competing up here but grassroots conservatives, Christian conservatives, Tea Party conservatives tend to dominate the smaller caucus settings.
However, I will say I've been in touch with several Romney people who are involved in the ground operation up in Maine today and they are reasonably confident of getting a victory when we hear those results, and they view Ron Paul as the only significant threat up in Maine.
Where does Maine stack? Wolf, it is now the ninth state to vote, eight states so far. You see purple, Santorum in the middle, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri. The Missouri win didn't bring in many delegates, remember? That will happen later in the process. Santorum also winning out in Colorado. Rick Santorum actually has more victories on this day.
Governor Romney has wins in New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada. He would very much like, Wolf, to pull even with Senator Santorum and add Maine because then the rest of this month the race goes to Michigan and Arizona, two states that as we speak tonight remember it's been a very volatile race. But as we speak tonight, Governor Romney believes he has the leg up in both Michigan and Arizona. He would like to get a boost out of Maine to help with that effort.
BLITZER: Yes. He has leg up now, but you never know in the next two weeks what could happen. He had the leg up in Colorado, too, and didn't exactly work out all that well for him. We'll stand by for that, John.
Don't go too far away. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, we're going to get the results, the winner of the Maine caucuses. Stay with us. Our coverage continues.
BLITZER: Now, we're getting ready for the results to come in from Maine.
Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine doing a little bit of a pep talk to the Maine caucus delegates over at Republican Party Headquarters there in Maine right now.
But we're going to get the results from Charlie Webster, the party chairman very, very soon.
Let's set the scene for what we're about to get. David Gergen, if Ron Paul wins, if he beats Mitt Romney in New England, what will that mean for Romney?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It will mean he's had the worst week of his campaign, and I think he's going to be in deeper trouble. The CPAC victory he had earlier today will diminish in value if he were to lose Maine tonight and truth, Wolf, I think that we've got a situation where both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul need to win tonight, and the one of them is going to lose and the loser is going to get hurt.
If it's Ron Paul, it's going to suggest even when he concentrates as he has on a caucus state like Maine with its big libertarian streak, as John King pointed out, if you can't win Maine it's hard to see where he wins.
On the other hand, if Mitt Romney in the neighboring state as you pointed out doesn't win in New England, and goes 0 for 4 this week, that is really bad news for him.
WOLF: Yes. Let me bring in Gloria Borger into the conversation as well. Gloria, I think David Gergen makes a lot of sense there.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You know, Ron Paul has spent an awful lot of time in the State of Maine. I think he left Florida once to go actually campaign in Maine.
And what was significant to me was that we saw Mitt Romney show up in Maine. He hadn't been in Maine until now, and so it was very clear that his campaign understands that at the very least, if he were to lose substantially to Ron Paul, that it would be a significant embarrassment for them particularly coming after the Trifecta they lost last week.
WOLF: David, why did Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich simply avoid Maine? They presumably could have done fairly well. It doesn't take much to fly, it's an hour's flight from Washington, D.C. You go spend a few hours there. You shake hands. We're not talking about a huge turnout in the Maine caucuses.
DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Remember, there's this gravitational force that we don't see, which is the time the candidates spend away from the campaign trail raising money.
Mitt Romney has done a lot of that work already. He doesn't need to devote half his time or two-thirds of his time to that activity. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum with the win behind him, Newt Gingrich with a win to this space, both of them are now scrambling for funds and that's going to take a lot of their time.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, my sense is that Mitt Romney need to SOS, save our status as a front-runner.
Because as David is right, David - the other David, and that is if he wins tonight it will give him a little momentum coming after the symbolic vote at CPAC, give him some momentum before Michigan and Arizona.
Once again, 21 delegates at stake. This is a non-binding process tonight because the delegates will be allocated later. But if he had a big - if Romney comes through with a big win tonight this will help him regain his status as a front-runner.
BLITZER: We'll get a little bit of that badly needed political momentum going.
BORGER: He will need it. I mean, Ron Paul really has an awful lot at stake here tonight because he has to show that he can win something.
BLITZER: But he's not going anywhere. Ron Paul is in this, he has told me repeatedly if he were to drop out there'd be a rebellion among his supporters.
BORGER: But - but if you read the interviews that Ron Paul has done and you'll be speaking with him later, it's interesting. He seems to admit it. He's very candid about it. He'd like to win in this state. They've put a lot into winning Maine largely because they know that it's small, they can organize, libertarian streak as John King pointed out, quirky, independent voters.
So if they're going to win anywhere, they're going to win in Maine and so this is really -
BRAZILE: A lot of college students in Maine.
BORGER: A lot of college students - very, very important for Ron Paul.
BLITZER: All right. Hold on one second. Shannon Travis is over there at Republican Party Headquarters. What are you seeing, what are you hearing, Shannon?
TRAVIS: Yes, Wolf. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine here, she's up on the podium right now and just after her, we're expecting for Charlie Webster to take over at the podium and read those results. Everybody here is pretty much just listening to Collins right now, waiting for those results to come in as we are. We'll have it live, obviously, Wolf. BLITZER: All right. So we're going to get back to you as soon as Susan Collins wraps up. You'll see, Charlie Webster, the Republican Party chairman, he will go to the microphone and make the formal announcement. They've already counted the ballots. Is that right?
TRAVIS: Yes. I actually spoke with Charlie Webster a few moments ago. He was walking around with an envelope. He said these are the results right here. Of course, I tried to see what those numbers were. He wasn't revealing them to anyone. He wants to wait for just a few moments to reveal them to everybody, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll get right back to you Shannon as soon as Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, wraps up. As I said, she's giving a little pep talk to the supporters, to the Republicans who have showed up in this caucus in Maine.
David Gergen, you're up in New England yourself, right? And I think it's a fair point. This is sort of tailor made - tailor made certainly for Mitt Romney who is from Massachusetts, but it certainly is tailor made for Ron Paul as well.
GERGEN: It is, although it seems a more natural state for - for Mitt Romney, he did win the caucuses there with 52 percent four years ago, and Ron Paul came in with only 18 percent. So I think it's historically been more of a Romney-type state.
But the time and attention that Ron Paul has paid to Maine, Donna made this point the other night about Rick Santorum, going in and visiting often does make a difference here. And one of the things that's been interesting so far is we have heard the turnout seems to be up in these caucuses. That's a sign that Ron Paul may be doing better than expected.
BLITZER: And when we're talking about turnout, David Frum, it's not a going to be a huge, hundreds of thousands of folks showing up, there will be several thousand but not - not a whole lot more than that.
FRUM: Right, and just remember that it's thousands of people who are at CPAC who voted, too, that's actually a big crowd.
Here I think is the danger when I think of what is ahead for Romney. If he has any kind of bad news, he has responded to bad news by paying a heavy sacrifice that will hurt him later in the general election, that in - when Newt Gingrich surged in December, Ron Paul - sorry - Mitt Romney endorsed the Ryan plan.
He has been dragged this week and he went along, he got himself dragged into the contraception battle. He has done things he didn't need to do to pay off the right wing of the party which by now should be locked up behind him. If there's more bad news he'll pay more and it will hurt.
BLITZER: Let me bring John King into this conversation as well. John, if Romney were to lose tonight no doubt he's going to have to focus an enormous amount of efforts in Arizona and Michigan, the two other states at the end of this month that will have contests and spend a lot of money there presumably than he would have preferred spending on Super Tuesday states.
KING: Hey, he already is spending some money. I can show you that.
First, let me come back to the Maine point just a little bit. As I said, I spoke to some Romney people earlier who are voicing some confidence tonight perhaps because, Wolf, they realize how important this is and they're making more of an effort late than they would have made perhaps if they hadn't lost all those states prior in the week.
They understand now it's not just about numbers, it's not just about wins, it's not just about delegates right now. There's a psychology in this race. Romney was once inevitable. Now he's viewed as fragile, a little bit weak. He needs to get back on the win trail. So let's watch Maine tonight.
But you mentioned Michigan and Arizona, I just want to show you if we come up over here and we look at TV ads, if you look - the only one on TV in Michigan right now is the Romney campaign and the pro-Romney Super PAC.
Let's bring it out. Bring the map out more and bring the map out some more. Come over to Arizona. Let's have the state stretched out. The only candidate and only Super PAC on the air in Arizona is pro-Romney.
So if you remember back when he was competing coming out of New Hampshire into South Carolina, Romney was the only one early on the air in Florida. That was a firewall. They're taking very much the same approach to Michigan and Arizona even as they hope in just a few minutes they get what would be a very helpful momentum-wise, psychology-wise performance in Maine.
BLITZER: Yes. I think she's getting ready to wrap up, Susan Collins, and once she does we're going to get the results of what's going on.
I want to bring Donna Brazile into this conversation. I remember, you ran a campaign in 2000, that would be the Al Gore campaign. Money was obviously important then but I suspect it's shaping up this time around given the unlimited sums that these Super PACs deliver to be an even more important factor.
BRAZILE: It's very important, you know, especially to get these organizations and these states that are coming up soon after, you know, Arizona and Michigan.
You know, Wolf, I'll never forget back in 2000, we were running out of money in the month of February and Bill Bradley was still a threat -
BLITZER: When you wanted the nomination.
BRAZILE: We wanted the nomination early so that we could prepare for George Bush, because we knew the Republicans would end their primary season early. And so once again, we had to rely on other groups, on other outside groups to help us compete in that crucial month of February.
So, look, I assume that what Mitt Romney is doing, he's preparing for Super Tuesday where over 400 delegates will be at stake. And if he does well tonight in Maine, as they say, as Maine goes, so that hopefully so goes Michigan and Arizona.
BLITZER: Do you think that's true, as Maine goes - will go, so does Michigan and Arizona?
FRUM: I think that that line was originally coined to belittle and minimize the impact of Maine, not to magnify it. I think the joke was as Maine goes, so is Vermont.
BLITZER: All right. Charlie Webster is about to speak. Let's listen in. I think he's going to make the announcement now on the winner of the Maine caucuses. He's the party chairman.
CHARLIE WEBSTER, MAINE GOP CHAIRMAN: ... I have a few words I want to read to you. Maine is considered a beauty contest. A beauty contest - excuse me - Maine is considered the beauty contest when it comes to caucuses, that is to say there is no national - no national delegates won or bound to any presidential candidate in our caucus process.
At the caucuses, we elect state delegates, election clerks and in some cases town officers. We do, we also do is to ask those who participate in the caucus to take a poll of which presidential candidate they prefer. This is an unofficial, non-binding poll that just simply shows a snapshot or takes a current pulse of which presidential candidate has the most support at the participating caucuses throughout the state.
Some caucuses decided not to participate in this poll and will caucus after this announcement. Their results will not be factored in the actual votes. It will not be factored into this announcement after the fact.
We will make the breakdown of the actual votes at the municipal polls available to campaigns and the press on February 13th.
Again, this is an unofficial, non-binding poll and we will elect our national delegation from the Florida State Convention on May 5th and 6th.
I'm now going to announce the winner of the Maine GOP Presidential Poll. And that winner is Mitt Romney. Excuse me. Thank you. Thank you. Excuse me?
OK. Thank you. Thank you. Let me go on.
Mitt Romney received 39 percent of the vote, a total of 2,190. Ron Paul received 36 percent of the vote, a total of 1,996 votes. Santorum received 18 percent of the vote, with 989 votes, and Gingrich received six percent of the vote with 349 votes. There were 61 votes cast for others besides these four nominees.
We would like to congratulate Mitt Romney on his win in this Maine caucus. Thank you, thank you.
AUDIENCE: Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt! WEBSTER: We would also like to thank both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul for personally visiting our state, and that's a big deal.
Maine people were excited to cast their first vote against the Obama agenda, and our activists are excited to be working with our Republican presidential nominee to defeat Barack Obama in Maine. Maine people are tired of Obama's extreme agenda.
We owe many thanks and congratulations to our volunteers across the state who worked so diligently organizing these caucuses. These caucuses would not have been possible without their commitment to our Republican principles, and the commitment to supporting our political philosophy.
It was one of those things that so many people turn out in Maine to participate in this preference poll, and participate in our caucus process. We are truly a grassroots party, and work as they started is critical to moving our party forward in winning this November. We now look forward to selecting our national delegation to the Maine State Commission in May.
I like to personally thank again our activists who participated in this process. The success of this contest proves once again that Maine people, the Republican Party is back.
Thousands of middle and lower income Maine working people have spoken, and their choice was Mitt Romney. Thank you.
I want to - before we - before we end this meeting, I would like to acknowledge, I apologize for not doing so earlier, I'd like to acknowledge -
BLITZER: All right. So there you have it, the results coming in from the Republican Party Chairman in Maine, Charlie Webster, a narrow victory for Mitt Romney in the Maine caucuses. This is the - what they call the beauty contest, 39 percent for Romney, 36 percent for Ron Paul, 18 percent for Rick Santorum, six percent for Newt Gingrich.
Let's assess what has just happened. David Gergen, what do you think?
GERGEN: The name of the game is winning and Mitt Romney won. The percentage matters less than winning. And so he takes out of this week I think, he helps to salvage something this week, coming out these three big losses earlier in the week with the CPAC vote this morning, or today, and now Maine tonight.
This puts him on better shape. I think he is the front-runner. I think that Donna was right it is an S.O.S., that they helped to restore his status. It has to be somewhat disquieting if you're a pro in the Romney campaign that last time he got 52 percent of the vote in Maine, this time he's down to 39 percent.
Ron Paul people can take some, you know, measure of credit from this, they doubled the size of his vote from four years ago, but he still lost and he put a lot of time and effort in this. To me this is significant that Ron Paul has been unable to bring out Maine, because I - pull off Maine because I do think it does suggest it's hard to see where he puts together the tapestry of victories that makes him a really credible candidate at a convention. He may have some delegates but he's not a credible candidate.
BLITZER: We're going to be speaking with Ron Paul shortly. Stand by for that.
Gloria Borger, what is your immediate reaction?
BORGER: I think this is important for Mitt Romney. He avoided a major embarrassment. It really shows he's something Donna was talking about before.
Mitt Romney changed his campaign schedule. He was in Portland on Friday. He went to two caucuses today. He was supposed to take the day off today, but decided you know what? I need to show up.
BLITZER: Probably a good reason he did.
BORGER: Probably a good reason he did, because there were 194 votes separating these two men, and if Ron Paul had won, it would have been a whole different story.
BLITZER: It's hugely embarrassing for Mitt Romney.
Let's go to Ron Paul's headquarters in Maine right now. Mary Snow is standing by. I guess he's going to be speaking to his supporters at some point, is that right, Mary?
SNOW: Yes, Wolf. We do expect Ron Paul to come down fairly soon and speak to his supporters. You can imagine so many supporters here, so disappointed, really booing at the screen when those results came down. They really felt that Ron Paul could win his first victory.
And before the results came in, you know, some of the supporters had come here hours before the results, some from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, saying that it's very important, they thought, for him to win here, to gain momentum. But they say it will still not dull their support that they - and one supporter said it will just make him go out and work even harder, but he was clearly the candidate who spent the most time here in Maine campaigning.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by. I want to go back to Shannon Travis over at Republican Party Headquarters in Portland, Maine. Shannon, you have a guest?
TRAVIS: Yes, that's right. The man who just announced the results of the Maine caucuses, Charlie Webster, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party.
Mr. Chairman, the results were only separated by a few - a few votes. It was a small margin of victory for Mitt Romney. Could that outcome have possibly changed because of what happened in Washington County? We know they canceled their caucuses due to weather and the death of - a recent death of a young girl. Could the outcome have possibly changed? WEBSTER: Probably wouldn't have been enough votes cast there, maybe even 150 people attending, you'd have to assume the votes would have been divided up so I don't think it really would have affected it.
TRAVIS: So what's the history of the voting patterns in that area in Washington County?
WEBSTER: Now, Washington County is a pretty conservative part of the state, so it would be fair to assume that either Gingrich or Santorum would have done really well there, but who knows.
TRAVIS: Earlier, you were giving me an estimate of about how many votes might have potentially been cast given the history of voting there. About how many might have been cast at that caucus if it was held today?
WEBSTER: I think a high turnout. It would be a couple hundred so you have to assume that they would have been split up among the four candidates.
TRAVIS: So it's possible that the margin of victory could have been even slimmer or perhaps even a flip of the results?
WEBSTER: Not really. I think there were 192 votes, between 195, whatever it was so it's unlikely that all 195 people attending in Washington County would have supported one candidate.
TRAVIS: With Mitt Romney only campaigning here for the first time starting yesterday and today, this election cycle, why do you think that that helped put him over the edge?
WEBSTER: Well, I think people in Maine are pretty independent thinking and Congressman Paul worked really hard here, his people worked hard and even though Romney has been here a dozen times in the last five years, you know, the fact that he - he made a difference.
TRAVIS: And how do you think Maine will play in the general election going forward?
WEBSTER: I think we have a real shot here, depending on who our nominee is. Maine is not as blue as it used to be. We actually think it's red now. There are pockets where Maine's liberal, but in rural Maine, you know, where we got a lot of working people, they vote Republican.
TRAVIS: Do you think some of those -- some of Maine's electoral votes could split and go GOP, some to Obama?
WEBSTER: Absolutely. I think we could win this outright, or we could get three votes here. That's my opinion.
TRAVIS: Got you. Thanks a lot, Mr. Chairman. Thanks a lot.
Wolf, there you have it, the Republican chair saying that it probably wouldn't have made much difference had that caucus been held in Washington County -- Wolf. BLITZER: Good point. All right, Shannon, thank the chairman for us, as well.
Ron Paul getting ready to speak right now to his supporters out there. I want to hear what he has to say. He's going to be walking out momentarily -- a narrow setback. I'm sure he is severely disappointed.
Mitt Romney got 39 percent of the Maine caucuses, Ron Paul 36 percent, 2,190 votes for Mitt Romney to 1,996 for Ron Paul. It's a difference of only 194. And I'm sure a lot of the Ron Paul supporters are saying to themselves, if only they had worked a little bit harder, maybe they could have changed the result and created the first win for Ron Paul in this presidential nomination process.
Ron Paul is walking out. He's going to be speaking right now. I hope the -- whoever is holding up that Ron Paul sign drops it so we can see Ron Paul. But let's listen in to Ron Paul.
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: Thank you. Just remember, the revolution is only beginning!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: We have a ways to go! I do want to recognize the staff and all of you, all the volunteers and all the work's been done has been fantastic. Thank you very much. It encourages me because it's an important issue! Thank you.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: But you know, I have one slightly discouraging announcement. I wish all the caucuses had met today...
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: ... because I was disappointed. There was one caucus that I think we would have done very, very well. But we won -- we lost by, I guess, almost 200 votes, 190 votes. It's almost like we could call it a tie. But anyway -- the votes will be counted. All the caucuses will meet.
But I do want to make a prediction. If I were a betting man, and I do not have $10,000 to bet...
PAUL: If I were a betting man, I would bet that we will control the Maine caucus when we go to Tampa!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: It would have been great to win outright the straw vote, but it'll even be greater to win the delegate vote!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: And that's going to happen. The momentum is going to continue. We're not going away. We're going to be in all these places where we're going to pick up, continue to pick up the delegates, for one good reason. We have the message that America needs at this particular time.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: And the wonderful thing is the message is not complex. Everybody understands it. And the message is liberty. That is the message. That means we want our freedom. We want each and every individual to have their freedom, not because they belong to a group, not because they belong to one state or another. It's because we are individuals, that we are born with our freedom and we have a natural right to our liberties.
It's a God-given right. And it follows that if you have a right to your life, you have a right to your liberty to run your life as you choose in both a social and an economic means -- if that is the case, the goal that we have is to for all of us to be able to keep the fruits of our labor.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: Now, this is not a brand-new concept. It's an American concept. We tried it. It was working very well. And unfortunately, many, many decades ago, we started slipping away and took it for granted. We turned into a society that thought only that you redistributed wealth both by force and coercion and lobbying, and we forgot about what brought about prosperity and production. And it's only free people that can do that, the understand of property rights, the understanding of contract rights.
And one important issue. For prosperity to thrive, you have to have an honest monetary system.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
CROWD: End the Fed! End the Fed! End the Fed!
PAUL: And if we don't do it, they'll do it to themselves because it's non-viable and they cannot persist because the funny money system, the fiat system, the paper money system makes no sense whatsoever! And it's coming to an end.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: It always bothered me that we who believe in liberty never did a very good job in selling it, especially when we were free and when we were prosperous and consuming our wealth. But we shouldn't ever lose this because it is now that we have to grab the moral high ground. For too long, those who wanted to take your wealth and give it to somebody else or get involved in any of your social life, and tell you how to live, and also to get involved in other countries that we shouldn't be involved -- that's coming to an end. The country is bankrupt, and the most important thing the American people do right now is admit the truth. We cannot deny the truth, and the truth is that we can't continue this way. We have to either go in a desperately wrong direction, as we have been, or we have to stop the nonsense, look to our traditions, and not go backwards and act as we did 200 years ago, but pick up on that because freedom was never perfect.
Freedom has been developed over many, many centuries. It's sad to me when I see some of the fundamentals that have been recognized at the time of the Magna Carta in 1512 -- I mean, 1215, that all of a sudden, we're in this country now undermining some of those basic principles!
So we have a desperate struggle now to reassert ourselves and say liberty is what we want. We know what it's all about. We've had it, and we've gotten careless and it's drifted away.
So now the country is waking up. The country is waking up for financial reasons. Everybody knows we're bankrupt. I mean, the social programs can't be financed. The world is involved in this. It's a dollar fiat standard that engulfs the world.
You think we're in this together by ourselves? No. Just look at Europe, the mess they have. They're rioting over in Greece because they say they have to cut a little bit.
So what the plan? Bernanke's over there planning to bail them out with our dollars!
PAUL: The debt, when it gets this big, should it be liquidated? It shouldn't be dumped on the people, and that is what we have been doing for these last three or four years, and it needs to stop!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: But we need to ask, really, a very basic question. What should the role of government be? That's the question the founders of the country and those who led the revolution asked, What should the role of government -- they didn't like the role the king had. The fortunate part about our revolution was one of the very, very rare times that a revolution, an overthrow of a government, actually delivered more freedom to the people than they had before the revolution.
Look at the revolutions going on around the world today that we're very much involved in, unfortunately. They're ending up even with less. As bad as their governments were, just think of what's happening today.
So we had more liberty, not less liberty, and we need to build on that and understand how important it is. But the role of government should be no more complicated than guaranteeing you the right to your life and the right to your liberty.
What does that mean? It means the government should be out of the economy. Well, they say there's no regulations? Yes, you have the regulations of property rights. You have the regulations of market, the regulations of contracts, the regulations of sound money, the regulations of bankruptcy, the regulations of don't bail out anybody that -- you know, that comes to the government for bail-outs! Those are regulations that are truly free market-oriented.
But it also means that the government ought to be out of our social lives and the way we run our lives. For too long we've taken liberty and chopped it into two pieces. Oh, social liberty and personal liberty and religious liberty? Some people defend that. And others have economic liberty. It's one and the same because it's individual liberty. And we have the right to our life and the right to our (INAUDIBLE)!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: But if our goal is peace and prosperity, of course, we have to have the property rights. We have to have the sound money. We have to have limited government and restraint. But we also have to have a different foreign policy. We have a foreign policy that is deeply flawed. It is the foreign policy that always brings great nations down, and nations that overextend themselves.
Even in our history, our recent history, what brought the Soviets down? When the Soviets came -- you know, I was drafted in the '60s. They had 30,000 nuclear missiles. And we didn't have to fight them, thank goodness, but they collapsed because of their deeply flawed economic policy and their foreign policy of overextending themselves. And we're doing the very same thing!
People would like us to think -- so often in the debates, they say, Tonight, we're going to talk about foreign policy. The other night, we're going to be talking about economic policy. How can you talk about economic policy without dealing with all the spending overseas? That is why we need our troops to come home!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: We need a policy which is constitutional. The Founders gave us good guidelines. They said shouldn't go to war unless you declare it. We have a responsibility for a strong national defense, but today our presidents don't come to the Congress and to the people and say, Declare the war, or not declare the war. They just go to war. Sometimes they consult. Sometimes they don't even consult with the Congress.
But they're always overly willing to consult with NATO and take their marching orders from the U.N.! That's wrong!
(BOOS) PAUL: So therefore, a foreign policy of non-intervention, minding our own business, stay out of policing the world and stay out of nation building -- that is the road to peace and prosperity. That is what we have to go for.
Under the circumstances that we live today, where we allow our government to grow so big -- governments cannot grow unless they undermine personal liberty. Every time government writes another rule or regulations, no matter how it comes about, it undermines our personal liberty.
But it does it in an even more sinister way because when people get frightened either about foreign policy issues or they get frightened about economic issues, they think, I'm frightened, the government is supposed to take care of me and I'm entitled to it, so I have a right to this. And they're so willing to give up their freedoms! And we were warned so clearly that you can't be safer by giving up your liberties! We never should have to give up our liberties in order to pretend that we might be a little safer!
BLITZER: Ron Paul getting ready to wrap up his remarks. We're going to be speaking with him shortly, as well. He did well today, but he did not win. He doubled what he did four years ago. Four years ago at the Maine caucuses, he got 18 percent. Now he got 36 percent. The problem for him, though, was that Romney today got 39 percent. Romney got 52 percent four years ago. We'll speak with Ron Paul.
Much more of our coverage of the Maine caucuses. And we're looking ahead to Arizona and Michigan when we come back.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney the winner of the Maine caucuses, but narrowly, 39 percent to Ron Paul's 36 percent.
John King is over there at the "Magic Wall." John, your sources, your Romney sources thought he would win, and guess what? They were right. But it wasn't overwhelming by any means.
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": Not at all. But "We needed today" was the three-word e-mail I got from one of the Romney sources I was spoken to earlier today. Again, we talked a bit earlier about the psychology here. Governor Romney had a horrible week, Senator Santorum winning here in Missouri, Minnesota, and out in Colorado. Romney wins that CPAC straw poll. More importantly, he wins up in Maine.
Wolf, 21 delegates at stake in Maine. Now, today is non-binding, but it does impact the process down the road. Our initial CNN delegate estimate is this. We estimate now that Governor Romney will pick up six delegates in Maine, at least. Congressman Paul will get five, Senator Santorum will get three, and our initial projection gives Speaker Gingrich zero.
Now, there are 21 total. We can't estimate the rest of the delegates until we get all of the detailed returns from the state of Maine and the Republican Party at the congressional district level. When we can break the results down by congressional district, we'll be able to estimate those other delegates. And again, as the party chairman noted, they will actually be decided down the road, but today's vote does give you a sense of where they will go.
So what does that do to the overall delegate map? Twenty-one delegates at stake. As we said, we've been able to estimate some of them here. Here's where we were coming into the day. You need 1,144 to win the nomination. We're very early, Governor Romney leading with 115, Gingrich and Santorum in a close battle for second, Congressman Paul there. So let's give the state of Maine to Governor Romney and proportion those delegates like we just said. Governor Romney pulls up a little bit, Wolf, to 121, Gingrich and Santorum now essentially tied in our projections, Congressman Paul running third. Again, a long way to get all the way out here to 1,144.
Two bigger states next on the calendar, Michigan and Arizona. They're coming up at the end of February. So we're slowly, slowly starting to add delegates. A little bit of context -- 25 delegates in Iowa, the first contest, 21 in Maine. New Hampshire was second, 12 delegates there. So some of these smaller states, even if you win, especially with the new Republican rules, they go by proportional bases early on, Governor Romney inches but just inches ahead a little bit more, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very, very early in the process. John, thank you.
David Gergen, if this were a baseball game and you'd look at those numbers, I think we'd still be in the first inning.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely, and top of the first inning. We've got a long, long way to go.
I think the other interesting question coming out of today is that Newt Gingrich did not do well, either at CPAC or in Maine. And the issue becomes is he fading some? Are conservatives -- is -- is Santorum emerging more and more as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney? Will people coalesce, the conservatives coalesce more behind Santorum in the next two, especially in Michigan? We'll have to wait and see on that.
But I think Mitt Romney clearly has had a very, very good day. But the other issue here is Santorum over the longer haul.
BLITZER: Yes, I think David Gergen makes a good point, Gloria. Newt Gingrich -- not a good day at all, only 6 percent, even though he really didn't go up and campaign there. But that's not a vote of confidence.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it isn't. And it reminds you of the fluidity of this race. I mean, at Romney headquarters tonight, they're breathing a real sigh of relief. And it makes me think of the old maxim, you know, Overnight is a lifetime in politics.
Talking about some people in the campaign, I was reminded that Nevada was just one week ago. And we've been through up and down and up and down. And so, you know, Mitt Romney needed this win tonight. He got this win tonight. Newt Gingrich can say, you know, I didn't really compete, but Newt Gingrich is going to be the one who's going to need to do well in Arizona, in particular, which I think he's sort of banking on.
BLITZER: Hold your thought, David, for a moment. I want to take a quick break. Mitt Romney was in Maine earlier today. Maybe he should have stayed and spoke to the folks in Maine, thank him -- thank them, I should say, for his victory.
When we come back, Ron Paul. We'll speak one on one with the Republican presidential candidate.
BLITZER: Let's go right to Congressman Ron Paul. He's joining us live right now. Congressman, you got 18 percent four years ago, 36 percent now, but Mitt Romney got 39 percent. So you came in a close second. Let's look ahead. Where do you go from Maine? Where is your priority in the coming days and weeks?
PAUL: Well, somebody else would have to help me out exactly which state is where and what day it's going to be. But it's going to continue like we're doing. We're going to go to the caucus states, the smaller states that we can afford and keep accumulating delegates. And that's what we did today. We feel like we've had a pretty good day because we -- we are convinced that we will win the majority of the delegates out of Maine today.
BLITZER: All right, because Arizona is coming up and Michigan on the same day at the end of this month, and then Washington state and then super-Tuesday. Any of those states you're really going to spend a lot of time in?
PAUL: To tell you the truth, I'm not positive which ones. But if they qualify as a caucus state, that's where I'll be going. I don't have my schedule in front of me, but anyplace where we can compete at a reasonable level and gain delegates in a caucus state, that's where we'll be.
BLITZER: What's wrong with primaries, though? Explain to our viewers, who may not understand the nuances between a caucus state and a primary state. Why can't Ron Paul compete in a primary state?
PAUL: Well, I think it depends on the primary state. You know, the one example that we, you know, deliberately stayed away from was Florida because, you know, it was a total primary. It was a winner- take-all. If it's a primary state and it's proportional, that's different.
But to compete with somebody who has hundreds of millions of dollars is pretty difficult. So for us to spend maybe $25 million and the difficulty we have raising money, with the odds of not coming in first -- that wouldn't have been a wise choice of spending money.
So yes, not all primaries will be off the table. If there's a good chance and it's not one of the very expensive states and it's proportional -- definitely, if it's proportional -- we'll be in those races.
BLITZER: Is it your sense right now that this contest is Mitt Romney's to lose?
PAUL: Mitt Romney what?
BLITZER: Do you think Mitt Romney is the front-runner and it's his to lose, if you will...
BLITZER: ... that he's got the money, the organization, the wherewithal to get the job done when all the dust settles?
PAUL: Yes, I think -- I think he's pretty much there. And he does have the money and the organization. He just doesn't have the enthusiasm that I think we have -- are able to get in our crowds, you know, really excited about what he believes in. I think that's his biggest problem.
But I would say, yes, he's out in front, and people keep picking away at him but -- you know, he lost a few, but you know, he picked up a little steam today. So you got to give him credit for that.
BLITZER: Of the three challengers you have for the Republican presidential nomination, whose views would you say are closest to yours?
PAUL: Oh, I don't think -- I think they're all very close together. I think they all want a lot more government. They all essentially have the same foreign policy. They have the same monetary policy. They have the same spending policy. None of them are talking about cutting really spending. So I think they're all in one group.
For one of them to be closer to me -- I can't see that. It just happens that because I've known Mitt a while longer, he seems to be friendlier, but that doesn't mean that I sympathize more with his positions because I think I challenge all three of them.
I mean, how many other candidates have you heard, Republican or Democrat, talk about concern about civil liberties and the Patriot Act and the 4th Amendment? And I mean, those are the kind of things -- this is what energizes a lot of people. People are getting frightened by this, and -- but the other three don't do this. So I put them all in the same category.
BLITZER: To you see much of a difference between the other three and President Obama on the fundamental, most important issues of the day?
PAUL: Oh, yes. I think that I'll (ph) be better on taxes, but on medical care -- you know, Santorum hasn't been good on medical care. He voted for prescription drug programs and voted to increase all the deficits. So no, I don't think any one would be a lot better because -- that's my problem. That's the problem with the country is that when you put people in office -- you put a Democrat in, and he acts like a Republican too much. And when you put a Republican in, they act like a Democrat and they spend too much money! So I -- I don't see a whole lot of difference with them.
BLITZER: We'll see you out on the campaign trail, also at the CNN debates. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
PAUL: Thank you.
BLITZER: And CNN's coverage of "America's Choice 2012" continues right after this.