PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ George Bush, shoring up support in his summer-home state as Republicans prepare for weekend caucuses here, is looking for a strong win to bolster his campaign after losses in Minnesota and South Dakota.
Michael Dukakis, the governor of Massachusetts, was also playing up his home-court advantage as the Democrats geared up for their caucuses.
Bush, who greeted supporters during a half-hour stop at the Portland airport on Wednesday, said he was disappointed but not surprised by his weak finishes in Minnesota and South Dakota.
He bypassed campaigning in the two states in the face of the strength of rivals Bob Dole and Pat Robertson.
″I think the result was somewhat anticipated,″ the vice president said. ″You can’t win them all.″
Bush, who has a summer home in Kennebunkport, is heavily favored to win Maine’s Republican caucuses, most of which are being held this weekend, although he said he was taking nothing for granted.
″I think we have to do our best. The same is true for all these southern states,″ Bush said, referring to delegate-rich Super Tuesday contests of March 8.
Among Maine Democrats, Dukakis is widely viewed as the front-runner. Dukakis, who split victories with Rep. Richard Gephardt in Minnesota and South Dakota on Tuesday, spoke at a party dinner in Bangor last weekend, and aides said he tentatively planned to campaign in southern Maine on Sunday.
″We’re looking to win, period,″ said David Villarino, the Maine campaign manager for Dukakis, adding that the biggest concern was turning out supporters at the caucuses.
″We’re not perceiving a lot of excitement″ among party members, he said.
Campaign workers for the other candidates in both parties played up expectations of Bush and Dukakis victories this weekend.
They forecast battles for second and third place between Dole and Robertson in the GOP caucuses and between Democrats Gephardt and Jesse Jackson.
A leader of Dole’s Maine campaign, state Sen. Pamela Cahill of Woolwich, said she was optimistic about Dole’s prospects but did not expect him to win in the state.
Jeff Nelson, who was brought in from Michigan to serve as Robertson’s press secretary in Maine, predicted a battle for second place between Dole and Robertson, although he suggested his candidate is stronger.
The Dole forces are ″struggling for second, we’re struggling for first,″ Nelson said.
On the Democratic side, a Gephardt spokesman saw no prospect of defeating Dukakis in ″his own front yard.″ Dukakis showed his strength in the region with a decisive win in last week’s New Hampshire primary.
″The Massachusetts government is up here,″ said Jim Case. ″I don’t know if you’d call it a government in exile or a government on leave.″
Jackson spokesman Bob Philbrook also cited ″overwhelming″ support in the state for Dukakis but said the campaign was buoyed by Jackson’s showing in Minnesota, where he claimed 20 percent of the vote, placing second to Dukakis.
″We’re going to do better than that in Maine,″ Philbrook said.