AUGUSTA — In the wake of a crushing defeat in last week’s state elections, and a new revelation that Republican Bruce Poliquin has filed suit in federal court to try to stop the ranked-choice vote tally in progress, Maine’s Republican Party is looking for answers.

“Clearly, Republican losses in the 2018 elections show that there are things we must do differently or improve upon,” the party said in the preface to a new online survey of loyalists that aims to delve into the reasons behind the losses.

In Maine’s elections, the GOP lost the gubernatorial race, handed over control of the state Senate and is watching nervously to see if two-term U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin survived a close race in the 2nd Congressional District. Poliquin on Tuesday morning filed a suit in federal court to stop the count of ballots by the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

Jason Savage, the party’s executive director, said Tuesday that the GOP does “something like this every election cycle,” but this year’s version has been expanded – and, perhaps for the first time, the Republicans plan to issue a report on what it finds after the survey is complete.

Savage said some common themes have already emerged in the responses he’s seen.

The party said that it can tell “that a surge of voters who had never voted before showed up to vote for Janet Mills and Democrats” this year, a turnout that allowed Mills to win the governor’s race after eight years with Republican Paul LePage at the helm.

“We can see that the power of the Democrat candidate’s message was stronger than our own,” the survey preface said.” Especially the promise of free health care for 70,000 Mainers.”

Democrats touted their commitment during the campaign to implement the Medicaid expansion that Maine voters approved in a ballot question a year ago. LePage and many in the GOP opposed it, warning that offering 70,000 or more low-income Mainers coverage would hurt the state’s bottom line.

The survey asks Republicans what they thought of the party’s message, candidates and campaign mechanics. It specifically questioned what they thought of top GOP contenders such as gubernatorial contender Shawn Moody, U.S. Senate hopeful Eric Brakey and Poliquin.

After the results on Election Day showed that Maine may have had the bluest wave of any state in the midterms, “the small core staff at Maine GOP and others hired for this election season” said they were asked “to provide their thorough, unvarnished opinions and insights into what went wrong in this election.”

To try to get unvarnished responses to its survey, the party promised people who answer it that it won’t release what they provide. Savage said it will instead offer “a summary of answers” that paints the broad picture of what GOP voters thought of their candidates and campaigns.

Savage said he is encouraged “by the insights offered by people who really care about the state” who have filled in the survey so far.

The party said that a couple of broad reasons for the losses are “not the final word on this election. There is a lot more. No victory or defeat is the result of one or two simple things. There are many factors.”

It promised to “comb through and analyze every comment, every idea and every thought” offered in response to its survey.

“It is clear to us that we need the feedback from everyone willing to participate in order to fully, clearly understand what is going on in every corner of this state,” the party said.

“It’s important to do this now, so we can get to work on a winning plan for the 2020 election,” the Republicans said.

The idea of a comprehensive autopsy report isn’t new.

The national Republican Party issued a 100-page report after Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 presidential race. It insisted the GOP needed a radical overhaul in its approach.

The report said that for the GOP to win the presidency, it needed to reach out to women and minorities, especially Hispanics. It said Republicans should “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform” to make inroads among Latino voters.

It also said Republicans ought to do more to connect with ordinary voters and to “blow the whistle on corporate malfeasance.”

That report had little to do with Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the White House in 2016.

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