The political action committee supporting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has bought television ads in Maine, possibly signaling growing optimism about his support in the 2nd Congressional District or shrinking opportunities to pick up votes in the Electoral College.

The purchase by Restore Our Future was confirmed by an employee at WCSH-TV, Portland’s NBC affiliate. It’s unclear how large it is, but CNN, quoting an anonymous Republican source, reported Tuesday that the buy is worth $300,000.

The ads will air primarily in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. The move, designed to capture one of Maine’s four electoral votes, underscores a race that some national pundits believe could be decided by the narrowest of margins. 

President Obama decidedly won Maine’s four electoral votes in 2008. However, a recent Republican poll reported that Romney was within striking distance in the 2nd District. 

Romney’s level of support there is significant because Maine is one of two states that allow a presidential candidate to pick up one electoral vote even if he or she loses the state’s popular vote. Romney will get one electoral vote if he wins the 2nd District.

The scenario has never happened in Maine. Nebraska, the other state that splits its electoral votes, has done it only once, when Obama picked up an electoral vote there in 2008 despite losing the statewide popular vote. 

Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said the ad buy is “too little, too late” in a district where most voters have already made up their minds.

He said a Republican-commissioned poll showing Romney’s gains in the 2nd District was exaggerated and Obama is winning comfortably there. 

Grant said the buy shows the desperation of the Romney campaign. 

“He has a very narrow pathway to get the 270 (electoral votes) he needs to win the election,” Grant said. “I’m happy that they’re spending their money here because it means they’re not spending money in places that he could actually win.”

Republicans have been touting Romney’s gains in the 2nd District. While independent polling showed Obama comfortably ahead in the 2nd District, the Republican polling firm NMB Research reported on Oct. 11 that Romney led 49 percent to 44 percent. 

David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, said Monday that Romney’s reported gains in the 2nd District are “a repudiation of the failed policies of Barack Obama and a sign that Mainers see Mitt Romney as the jobs candidate.”

On Monday, Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney, emailed supporters to say that Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is a priority target for television ads. 

Romney surrogates in Maine said Monday that they were unaware of any imminent ad buy. The email from Restore Our Future suggested that ads will run in Maine only if the PAC has enough money to do so. The group has taken in more than $111 million and spent nearly $95 million, according to its Federal Election Commission filings.

Crossroads GPS, the organization led by Republican operative Karl Rove, has already run anti-Obama ads in the 2nd District.  

Romney has not made any campaign appearances here. Obama has visited Maine twice for fundraisers this year.

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@mainetoday.com

twitter/stevemistler