PORTLAND – Four years ago last week, Sarah Palin held a rally in Bangor where she professed fondness for steel-toed boots, Carhartt work clothes and the National Rifle Association in a Republican effort to snatch at least one of Maine’s four electoral votes in the 2008 presidential election.

It’s unlikely that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, following Palin as the current GOP vice-presidential candidate, will be visiting Maine anytime soon.

But Republicans say they still think they might be able to win an electoral vote in Maine’s rural 2nd District in the Nov. 6 election.

Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that split their electoral votes by allocating them in part by congressional district.

Maine gives two electoral votes to the overall winner of the state, and one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. The notion of divided electoral votes is intriguing in Maine, but it’s never happened here.

Most polling shows President Obama with a large advantage over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in both the 1st District of southern Maine and the more conservative 2nd District in northern Maine.

But some polls suggest Obama’s statewide lead has shrunk and that Romney could be ahead in the 2nd District, said Mike Quatrano, executive director of the Maine Republican Party.

“It’s definitely in play,” Quatrano said. “We’ve had a couple of encouraging polls.”

This year’s presidential campaign in Maine has taken a back seat to the U.S. Senate race to determine who will replace outgoing Sen. Olympia Snowe.

Obama and Romney visited Maine back in February and March, but the presidential campaign in the state doesn’t seem to have as much energy as in 2008.

That year, Obama and Hillary Clinton both showed up in Maine while campaigning to be their party’s presidential nominee. Republican presidential candidate John McCain visited for a fundraiser and a campaign appearance in the summer.

A few weeks before Election Day, Palin drew about 6,000 people to a rally at the Bangor Airport. Even Palin’s husband showed up, stopping at a truck stop restaurant, a snowmobile and ATV dealership, and a hunting and fishing store.

But come Election Day, Obama beat McCain by 23 percentage points in the 1st District and 11 points in the 2nd District.

There was more excitement back in 2008 because there wasn’t an incumbent running and the race was tight between Obama and Clinton to determine who would be the Democratic presidential pick, said Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt.

Besides, she said, there’s not much suspense about who’s going to win Maine.

“We’re not a swing state. We’re not Ohio or Pennsylvania,” she said. “For the Republican Party, it’s pretty clear that President Obama has shored up all the electoral votes.”

But Republicans say they aren’t writing off Maine. A phone survey of 400 residents in late September showed Obama ahead by 17 points in the 1st District, 11 points in the 2nd District and 14 points statewide at the time. But Nick McGee, who heads the GOP’s Maine Victory campaign, points to other polls showing the race to be much closer. One recent survey even has Romney ahead in the district, he said.

“The polls have been up and down, which indicates it’s a very competitive race,” he said.

Maine hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential race since 1988, and the state has never split its electoral votes.

It’s a longshot that Republicans will win an electoral vote this year, said University of Southern Maine professor Marvin Druker. Still, there’s more than two weeks before Election Day.

“If they start buying time in the (2nd District) media market, that’ll be an indication they think they have a chance,” he said.


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