Republicans from 17 Waldo County towns cast their votes in a countywide caucus on Feb. 4.

The results, which will be revealed Saturday, Feb. 11 in Portland along with totals from around the state, were not made public at the Feb. 4 event; but based on audience responses to event speakers, conversations with attendants and some leaked numbers, Waldo County Republicans remain split on which candidate would make the best president.

Or who would stand the best chance against President Barack Obama.

A Lincolnville resident, who identified himself only by his last name, Pendleton, said that man was Newt Gingrich.

“He’s almost as dirty as a Democrat, and the only one who can beat Obama,” he said, adding, “If Obama doesn’t have a teleprompter.”

Barbara Curtis of Waldo said the candidate she really wanted didn’t stand a chance, so it would have to be Gingrich or Mitt Romney, though she hoped for Gingrich, whose foreign policy and focus on jobs she liked.

“And he can stand up against Obama, in a debate or anything else,” she said.

Others voters like Tammi Grass of Belfast didn’t mention the candidates’ respective electability. Grass favored Rick Santorum because of his conservative stance on social issues like abortion rights and marriage law. She also described him as more fiscally conservative than his GOP rivals.

She originally liked Ron Paul, she said, but came to find some of his proposed policies too drastic.

“You can’t eliminate everything,” she said, regarding Paul’s pledge to abolish various federal agencies.

Bruce Chamberlain, one of two Monroe residents at Saturday’s caucus, was ready to cast his vote for Romney, but said the more important goal was to elect someone other than the man he described as the “most incompetent president” in the country’s history.

“Personally, if Daffy Duck was on the ballot, I’d vote for him,” Chamberlain said. “Basically, it’s anybody but Obama as far as I’m concerned.”

In addition to picking a presidential candidate, Waldo County Republicans were asked to weigh in on two contested congressional races.

Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls is challenging Maine’s senior U.S. Senator, Olympia Snowe. D’Amboise’s wife Debbie spoke passionately on behalf of her husband and against the entrenched interests she said Snowe represents. Scott D’Amboise was campaigning in another part of the state.

Ralph “Blaine” Richardson of Belfast and Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, of Perry, are competing for GOP backing against the Democratic incumbent in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, Democrat Michael Michaud.

Richardson spoke in Belfast on Saturday describing the country as imperiled by a mounting debt that he attributed to the leadership of career politicians, Republican and Democrat alike. Former House Minority Leader Josh Tardy spoke in support of Raye.

None of the incumbent Waldo County Republicans in the state Senate and House of Representatives, including District 23 Senator Michael Thibodeau of Waldo, Representatives James Gillway (District 41) of Searsport, Ryan Harmon (District 45) of Palermo and Peter Rioux (District 42) of Winterport, faced challenges from within the party this term. All were present and offered brief speeches at the caucus.

Jethro Pease of Morrill, who is challenging incumbent District 44 Rep. Andrew O’Brien (D-Lincolnville) also spoke on Saturday, as did Andrew Cardinale of Swanville, who is seeking the District 2 seat on the Waldo County Commission currently held by William Shorey (D-Searsport).

On behalf of the presidential candidates, Belfast attorney Thomas Sheehan challenged his fellow party members to support Ron Paul, who has trailed Gingrich and Romney in national polls.

Sheehan shared Paul’s ideas of abolishing the Federal Reserve Bank, ceasing the drug war and felonization of minor drug crimes, and reeling in the “American Empire.” Though he drew applause for many of the ideas, Sheehan seemed to sense his was an uphill battle.

“I’m sounding conspiratorial,” he said at one point, making a ghostly “woooo” and wiggling his fingers in the air.

Former U.S. Congressman David Emery spoke in support of Romney, taking on perceptions of Romney’s maligned company Bain Capital Partners. Under Romney, he said, the company has taken on the difficult task of salvaging failing business.

“Does that sound like something we need to do with the the federal government?” he said, drawing loud “Yeah”s and applause.

“He can win,” Emery said, after noting that Romney was the only GOP candidate to poll higher than Obama. “And unless we have a candidate who can win, and win this fall, all of these values and aspirations we have will be for naught.”

Gingrich and Santorum did not have designated proxies, but were given impromptu speeches of support by Peter Sheff of Palermo and Ted Pearson of Winterport respectively.

Sheff harked back to the “Contract with America,” the document associated strongly with Gingrich and other Republicans elected to Congress in 1994 when the party gained a majority for the first time in decades.

“We need someone who was willing to make a contract with America,” Sheff said.

Pearson decried what he sees as a drift toward top-down governance that leads to onerous regulations that affect small businesses. The carpenter gave the example of requirements around lead paint abatement, from which people who weren’t in the most susceptible demographics used to be able to opt out.

Belfast had the largest contingent of voters at the caucus with 21. According to one source who was not authorized to share the results, Paul came out on top in the city with eight votes, beating out second-place finisher Rick Santorum, who got seven.

Santorum and Paul may have been given a boost by the strong Tea Party representation in Belfast, appealing to the social conservative and libertarian aspects of the movement, respectively.

Rita Horsey, an organizer of Tea Party Patriots of MidCoast Maine, said her own preference was for Santorum, but she qualified the endorsement saying that she spoke only on behalf of herself, and that she knew of several Paul supporters in the group.

A total of 134 votes were cast on Saturday, and organizers estimated another 30 people were present at the event who did not vote.

Residents were grouped at tables by town, and though organizers did not keep a tally of how many attended from each town, several towns appeared to have less than a half-dozen voters on hand.

Asked if any towns weren’t represented, caucus organizer Ray St. Onge conferred with another volunteer and said he believed there was no one present from either Burnham or Islesboro.

Volunteer organizer Joline Doersam said turnout at the caucus was comparable to the last presidential election year. Asked about the apparently small turnout at the caucuses as compared with other forms of election, Doersam noted that Maine used to be a primary state.

“It’s very unfortunate because people don’t realize this is their only chance to give their choice,” she said.

Several Waldo County towns have already held independent caucuses, including Unity, Palermo and Frankfort.

Montville and Stockton Springs Republicans are scheduled to caucus in their respective communities on Saturday, Feb. 11.

St. Onge noted that he recently received word that Freedom will also host an independent caucus, though as of Feb. 4 he did not know the date and time.