Some are eager to cast a vote for their favorite presidential candidate. Others are so angry about a candidate that they plan to participate in a party primary for the first time just to cast a protest vote. And many are simply depressed about the choices.

As of Sunday, Maine’s presidential primaries are just nine days away. The state is one of 15 to vote on Super Tuesday, which in some years has determined who would go on to run in the November general election.

This year, there’s little suspense about the outcome. Both President Biden and former President Donald Trump have strong leads, nationally and in Maine.

A recent University of New Hampshire poll found Trump has the support of 77% of likely voters in Maine’s Republican primary, while 75% of likely voters in Maine’s Democratic primary plan to support Biden.

That won’t keep a lot of voters from making their voices heard on March 5. The potential rematch of the 2020 presidential election is triggering a lot of strong feelings and conflicting opinions among voters here.

And a new wild card this year is the use of a new semi-open primary system that will allow unenrolled voters to cast ballots in party primaries that were once open only to each party’s membership.


More than 3,300 unenrolled voters have requested absentee ballots – accounting for 14% of all absentee ballots requested so far – although state officials could not say how many of those voters asked for Republican ballots versus Democratic ballots.


For voters like Nina Miller, of Portland, the primary is an opportunity to support a candidate she feels strongly about: Biden.

“Biden is really the only choice for this country to move forward, get back on track and to grow,” said Miller, 68.

Nina Miller, of Portland, looks forward to casting her vote for President Biden in the March 5 primary. “Biden is really the only choice,” she said. Carl D. Walsh/ Staff Photographer

She supports the president because of his beliefs, including the need to protect the right to an abortion.

“He’s honest. He has integrity, and he works for the people of the country,” Miller said. “And also, importantly, he isn’t Trump. That’s it in a nutshell.”


While critics have tried to make Biden’s age a liability – the president will turn 82 in November – Miller said it’s not something she’s concerned about.

“As long as he’s up there doing his job and making the right decisions for the country, I think he’s exactly where he should be,” she said. “He has done, I think, a wonderful job the past 3.5 years and I expect him to continue doing that in his next term.”

Kevin McKenna, a Democrat from Bridgton, also isn’t concerned about Biden’s age.

“In some cultures age is revered, though unfortunately in the U.S. it’s youth,” said McKenna, 70. “Not that that’s bad, but experience counts for a lot and we’re lucky he has the experience and has been there, done that.”

McKenna said he will vote for Biden in the primary. He admires his even-keeled temperament and believes Biden surrounds himself with capable and talented people.

“He’s a steady hand that has led us through some tough times,” McKenna said, citing COVID-19, economic challenges and the war in Israel.



Michael Pock, of South Portland, voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. He plans to cast his ballot for the former president again in the primary.

“Politicians are known for saying whatever to get in office, and then they don’t do anything. He does what he says he’s going to do,” Pock said of Trump.

Republican voter Michael Pock, 77, of South Portland, voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, and plans to vote for him a third time this year. “He does what he says he’s going to do,” Pock says.  Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

He said he likes that Trump is a businessman with a “no-nonsense approach” and said it doesn’t make sense for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to stay in the primary when she’s trailing in results and polling.

“I think she’s hanging around to get a Cabinet position or something,” said Pock, 77.

Tom Stanhope, a Republican who lives in Cumberland, said it’s important to participate in the primary even though the outcome is settled.


“I think there is still a strong following for (Trump),” he said. “People have a great understanding of what he did as president and what he’ll do if elected again.”

In Trump, Stanhope sees someone who is better on the economy and better on the global stage. “There is a lot to be said for what he did if you can get past the mean tweets,” he said, referring to Trump’s habit of incendiary statements and social media posts.

Ben McKenney, a Republican from Baldwin, said he is undecided between Trump and Haley in the primary. “I think it will come down to who will be the best to run against Joe Biden,” said McKenney, 45.

He said he will support whoever ends up the Republican nominee.

As town chair for the Republican county committee, McKenney said he’s also been hearing feedback from other voters.

“I think some people are dedicated to Trump and some are dedicated to Haley,” he said. “The majority looks like they’ll vote for Trump, but you don’t really know until it shakes out.”



Joan Havens, of Falmouth, had registered as a Republican in the past to vote in primaries. Now that independents can participate, she said she plans to unenroll after next month’s election.

She said she wishes Trump wasn’t allowed to run again.

“I have always considered Trump to be narcissistic and thoroughly despicable person,” she said.

But Biden doesn’t inspire confidence either.

“Biden, while somewhat more respectable, is simply too old to be an effective president. I am concerned about his losing any capacity to govern, and I do not like the prospect of Kamala Harris becoming president. She is simply not qualified to fulfill that office,” she said.


In 2016 and again in 2020, Havens said she voted for write-in candidates. Unless something changes, she expects to do the same in November.


Peter Morgan was unenrolled but, while it wasn’t necessary, decided to become a Republican and vote for Nikki Haley. He even sent her a $25 donation.

“It’s the only way to make a statement,” he said. His primary vote for Haley is really a vote against Trump.

Peter Morgan, 75, of Raymond, registered as a Republican to vote for Nikki Haley in the primary – a decision he said was really a vote against Donald Trump. “It’s the only way to make a statement,” he said.  Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Morgan, 75, is retired and lives in Raymond. He’s a Vietnam War-era veteran but said he joined the Coast Guard to avoid the draft. For many years, he’s been involved with the group Veterans For Peace.

He said he remembers a time when Republicans were honorable. His father was a lifelong Republican. But Trump, he said, has taken control of the party.


“He’s out of control,” Morgan said.

As for Biden, Morgan said, “he’s not my ultimate choice, but who else can you go with?”

Unlike Trump, he said, Biden will listen to advisers and surround himself with principled people, although he wondered if Biden might have missed an opportunity to pick a stronger running mate for the 2024 election.

John Wilson, who lives on Chebeague Island, said he has problems with the current primary system because it “does not seem to always necessarily produce balanced, reasonable candidates, but rather are controlled and dominated by the parties’ extreme wings.”

He also said he feels like his voice is ignored, which has made him more disenfranchised.

“Faith in the system is necessary for a functional, strong democracy,” Wilson said. “How can I trust an electoral system that has put two of the last four presidents in the White House after they lost the popular vote? Gaming the obsolete, faulty and historically suspect Electoral College to get elected does not serve the general electorate well.”


Absent a centrist third party, though, Wilson said he’s stuck by forcing to choose between Trump and Biden.

“I would prefer not to be choosing between ‘too immoral’ and ‘too old,’ but choose I will,” he said. “I haven’t missed a local or national vote since my first eligible participation in 1972. I won’t stay home for this one, either. But I am not at all satisfied with what the two parties have served up.”

Jason Rubinoff, who mostly votes Democratic, said he’ll likely participate in the primary next month, but he’s not looking forward to it. In fact, he’s pretty much done with the two-party political system.

“What my generation wants is nonpartisan, ranked-choice primaries,” said Rubinoff, 29, of Portland. “Then, you’re actually voting for someone who is speaking to your issues.”

If he votes next month, he said he’ll likely pick long-shot Democratic candidate Dean Phillips. He doesn’t dislike President Biden per se but thinks he’s too old to effectively lead the country.

“I don’t know anyone his age who is still working,” Rubinoff said, adding that the country needs a leader who can communicate effectively and concisely at a time of existential crisis.

Come the general election, though, Rubinoff will vote for Biden over Trump if those are the choices. But he knows many others his age who will just simply sit the election out because they don’t like either. He said people are disengaged because they don’t want to be put into simple boxes where you’re either 100% for something or 100% against it.

“I’m way less concerned with Democratic or Republican national platforms,” Rubinoff said. “I don’t even know what’s in them. What I do care about is Maine and the communities here thriving. Everyone has gotten so violent with their politics. It just doesn’t do anyone any good.”

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