( dpa ) - Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney leads and his rival Senator John McCain was lagging in third place in three-days of Republican party voting in the north-east state of Maine, a local newspaper reported Saturday.
The election has been overshadowed by the looming Tuesday mega- primary in 24 states that has the candidates criss-crossing the United States in the closely-contested Republican and Democratic races for the presidential nominations.
With 12.17 per cent of Maine's town caucuses reporting, Romney was leading, the Portland Press Herald wrote in its online edition. The nationally-favoured Senator John McCain was displaced to third place by outsider Texas congressman Ron Paul.
Romney had received 568 votes, or 53.23 per cent of 1,067 votes cast. Second place with 20.62 per cent went to Ron Paul, who holds a mere 3 to 6 per cent standing in national polls. McCain had received 18.28 per cent and former governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee received 5.15 percent.
Maine Republicans are debating their favourites town-by-town, in homes and churches. The votes represent the will of a group, not individuals.
For the first time this year, 17-year-olds are being allowed to vote in presidential primaries as long as they turn 18 by the general elections on November 4.
The Maine Democratic caucuses are February 10.