WASHINGTON — In 2008, 50.8 percent of Piscataquis County voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain.
Four years later, Piscataquis County’s preference for a Republican over Obama hadn’t budged an inch — or, more precisely, a tenth of a percent.
Mitt Romney picked up, you guessed it, 50.8 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.
Support for Obama was just as consistent in Sagadahoc County, where he received 57.0 percent of the votes in 2008 and again in 2012.
Overall, Obama soundly defeated Romney among Maine voters, 56.0 percent to 40.9 percent, with the remaining votes going to two lesser-knowns. In 2008, his margin over McCain in Maine was 57.7 percent to 40.4 percent.
There were a few places in Maine, however, where the president did better his second time around.
Obama’s support among Aroostook County voters rose from 53.7 percent in 2008 to 55.3 percent this year, again according to unofficial results.
He also claimed 0.2 and 0.3 percentage points more of the vote this year in Washington and in Knox counties, respectively.
Knox was also one of two counties — the other being Cumberland — where the president hit 60 percent this year — he only reached that threshold in Cumberland in 2008.
The biggest swing award goes to Androscoggin County, where the president’s support base fell by 6.6 percentage points compared with 2008.
Piscataquis remained the only county in Maine where Obama lost on Tuesday, just as it was in 2008.
Obama’s popularity fell in the cities of Portland and Bangor by 2.4 and 4.3 percentage points, respectively, although 74.5 percent of Portland voters still cast their ballots for the president.
In Augusta, Obama’s unofficial tally on Tuesday was 59.1 percent, up 0.3 percentage points from four years earlier.
Maine’s Senate clout to change
Congressional committee assignments … not exactly a sexy topic.
However, committees are where most of the work takes place on Capitol Hill, so having a local senator or representative strategically placed on a powerful committee can make a difference back home.
With the elections now over, congressional leaders soon will begin figuring out the composition of those committees. Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s retirement means Maine’s representation on Senate committees almost certainly will change.
Snowe serves on the committees that oversee taxes and health care (Finance), fisheries and transportation (Commerce, Science and Transportation) and small businesses (Small Business and Entrepreneurship).
Snowe’s successor, Angus King, can ask to serve on specific committees; but as a freshman senator, he probably won’t have as much pull as more senior members — that is, unless he can strike a deal with either Democratic or Republican leaders who want the independent in their caucus.
Stay tuned for that. King has suggested that he may try to use his caucusing options as a bargaining chip. He and party leaders probably will have those conversations next week when he is in Washington for new-senator orientation, although committee assignments won’t be announced for some time.
Meanwhile, term limits may require U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to give up her powerful position next year as the top Republican on a high-profile Senate oversight committee.
Under Republican rules, members can serve only six years as chairman or, if their party is in the minority, as “ranking member” of a committee before handing over the leadership reins to someone else. This is Collins’ sixth year as ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
In addition to its general government oversight responsibilities, the committee regularly conducts investigations. Past probes while Collins has served as ranking member or chairwoman included the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina and the shootings at Fort Hood, the Army post in Texas. Now the committee is investigating the September attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Collins can request a waiver to remain as ranking member — a high-profile post that helps set the agenda for the committee — but that would mean potentially bumping the person next in line. She can also request to remain a member of the committee.
Spokesman Kevin Kelley said Friday that Collins and King plan to meet next week when they will discuss, among other things, “committee assignments and how they can work together to best address issues critical to Maine and the nation.”
Kevin Miller — 317-6256