SANFORD, Maine—Mitt Romney, hoping to rebound after his triple loss on Tuesday, told Maine caucus-goers here Saturday that he's their only hope of ousting President Obama.
"I'm the one person in this race who can actually beat the president," Romney said. "I will be able to debate President Obama effectively and knock him on his heels when we talk about the economy."
Romney and Ron Paul almost crossed paths at the same caucus, with Romney arriving to address several hundred participants here about 10 minutes after Paul left. The pair are the only two candidates competing in Maine's week-long caucuses, which were scheduled to culminate Saturday night with an announcement of a non-binding presidential preference vote.
In addition to arguing that he is the most electable candidate and the best qualified to challenge Obama's economic policies, Romney also tried to bolster his credentials as a social conservative. He attacked Obama for the second day in a row for a decision to force insurance companies, rather than Catholic institutions, to provide contraceptives in their insurance policies. Romney called the policy “deceptive” and “disingenuous,” asserting that the costs will still be passed onto employees of religious institutions.
Romney has a better chance than usual to capture some social conservative votes. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have dominated among this group, but they have not devoted much time or money to Maine. Their supporters were hard to find among the pro-Paul and pro-Romney hordes here.
Paul, for his part, seemed to back off his promise to stay in the election through the Republican National Convention in Tampa this August. "Well, I'm gonna stay in as long as I'm in the race and right now I'm in the race,” he said when asked if he still planned to compete through the summer.