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Robertson Nips Bush in Maine Straw Poll

November 08, 1987|CATHLEEN DECKER | Times Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD, Me. — Pat Robertson's grass-roots guerrilla war for the Republican presidential nomination chalked up another symbolic victory Saturday night as the former preacher turned out just enough foot soldiers to win a straw poll in the state where Vice President George Bush makes his summer home.

Nationally, the Somerset County GOP's vote caused not a ripple. But it served to remind Republicans of Robertson's ability to deliver his strongly committed followers.

On a frigid, wind-whipped day, 103 Robertson backers, barely outnumbering 100 Bush supporters, showed up to don plastic foam hats and vote at the community center here. Kansas Sen. Bob Dole received 22 votes, and three were cast for New York Rep. Jack Kemp. Neither former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. nor former Delaware Gov. Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV received votes.

The straw poll is not binding; Maine will choose its presidential delegates in caucuses held across the state in February.

What put the poll on the political map was not the price of the tickets, a mere $5 to benefit the county Republican Party, or the presence of candidates--none showed up.

The draw came instead from the fact that Fairfield, whose straw poll was the only one in the state this year, is figuratively in the backyard of Bush's summer home in Kennebunkport, on the seacoast.

"This is one of George Bush's home states," said Chris Perkins, Somerset County Republican leader. (The vice president was reared in Connecticut and has since adopted Texas as his home state.)

Robertson's most stunning victory thus far came on Sept. 12, when he ambushed Bush at an Ames, Iowa, straw poll. Six weeks later, Bush retaliated, importing supporters from neighboring states to the Maryland Republican convention, whose straw poll he handily won.

The two have also wrangled in long-term battles over support in Michigan and Florida. Robertson has effectively wrested control of the Michigan caucuses from Bush, but Bush is expected to capture most of the delegates at next weekend's Florida state GOP convention.

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