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banner Friday, 7 January, 2000, 17:49 GMT
Maine

Maine has a strong independent streak and personalities are important. The state has an independent governor and one of the weakest party systems in the USA.

Key facts
Population: 1,243,316 (ranked 38 among states)
Governor: Angus King (Independent)
Electoral College votes: 4
But Maine, by far the biggest of the New England states, has a good interest in politics, with environmental issues dominating the agenda. In the 1996 presidential elections, Maine had the highest voter turnout in the country.

Maine's dramatic coastline has made tourism the state's biggest industry. Acadia National Park in the south-east and Portland on the coast, attract millions of visitors each year, including the Bush family who have an estate in Kennebunkport.

1998 Congress
House of Representatives: 2 Democrats
Senate: 2 Republicans
But this did not help George Bush senior in the 1992 run for president when he finished third behind independent candidate Ross Perot, who also did well in 1996. Maine's voters are difficult to predict.

In the past it was said that "as goes Maine, so goes the nation". But the state backed the loser in 1948, 1960, 1968 and 1976, all close presidential elections. Maine has solidly backed Bill Clinton, but whether the voters will back the Democrats again this time remains to be seen.

Voting record
1996: Clinton 52%, Dole 14%, Perot 14%
1992: Clinton 39%, Perot 30%, Bush 30%
1988: Bush 55%, Dukakis 44%
The winning candidate will have to be supporting of the state's economy. With 90% of Maine's landscape thick uninhabited forest, the timber industry is vital. In other parts of the state lobster farming is important.

Manufacturing has slowly declined in recent years. In the last 16 years the number of people employed in shoe factories fell from 17,000 to 6,000. Textile industries have also suffered. But like much of the USA unemployment has been kept low by the growth of the service sector.

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