Commentary

Frary: Looking to the 2014 gubernatorial election

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The Obscure: U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine.

Stop Paul LePage’s Agenda!
Governor Paul LePage’s extreme policies have hurt Mainers.
During his term as Governor, Paul LePage increased property taxes, attacked public workers and is responsible for raising the cost of health insurance in rural Maine.
Maine can do better!
Use the form at the right to tell Governor LePage to stop his extreme right-wing agenda and start standing up for hardworking Mainers.

This “petition” advertisement, paid for by the Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA,) has been  popping up on Internet news sites for weeks. It has even shown up on conservative sites, like  lucianne.com, which includes the FraryHomeCompanion.com in its list of “Blogs Lucianne Loves.”

There are 35 gubernatorial elections due in 2014. Why is Paul LePage, and no other Republican governor, being targeted? Maine can’t possibly play a central role in the hopes and dreams of the DGA.

The answer can be found in the calculations made by the respected liberal psephologist Nate Silver and reported in a New York Times’s article on April 9. At this point there are ten governors with negative approval ratings  Eight of those governors are Republican. Six of them have lower approval ratings than LePage. Silver lists four of them as “most vulnerable”:

Rick Scott (Florida): 34% approve; 54% disapprove.
Tom Corbett (Pennsylvania): 34% approve; 48% disapprove.
Rick Snyder (Michigan): 41% approve; 49 disapprove.
Paul LePage: 41% approve; 52% disapprove.

One reason the governors of Pennsylvania (pop. 12,800,000) and Michigan (9,800,000) have not yet attracted hostile petitions is that they have not yet declared plans to run. They fall into the “eligible” category, while the governors of Maine and Florida are identified as “running.”

Even so, Florida (pop. 19,300,000) is a more lucrative target than Maine (pop. 1,300,000) and Rick Scott’s current poll ratings are worse than Paul LePage’s. More, a recent Quinnipiac survey showed former Gov. Charlie Crist, his most likely opponent in 2014, beating him 50 percent to 34 percent.

It appears that Crist’s domination of the Democratic field may be inhibiting the DGA.  A Miami Herald report suggests that lot of Florida’s Democratic big shots don’t like the guy. He’s been a Democrat for a little over five months. We read in the Herald that “veteran Democratic fund-raisers and strategists across Florida worry about another scenario: A Charlie Crist train wreck.” Scott plans to spend $100,000,000 from his own huge fortune and he will have “loads of material to work with.” Former Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith worries about the difficulty of “selling a candidate who was governor, who left governor to run to be the Republican senator, to now come back and say he wants to be the Democratic governor…Charlie Crist may very well be able to explain that to people’s satisfaction, but it becomes the focus of the campaign. … As soon as the election becomes focused on the challenger, rather than the incumbent, I think the challenger is in trouble.”

How ever that may be,  Paul LePage remains the sole Republican governor, out of 21 up for re-election, who qualifies for the petition bomb.

The petition is not really intended to “tell” LePage anything. It’s designed to raise money for the DGA and spread the word about the national menace of the “extreme right-wing.”  As such it foretells the “strategy” of Maine’s Democrats and their allies in the press. They will not denounce the Republican as a conservative. That word lacks the menace of “extreme right-wing.”

The core of our governor’s agenda is pretty clear. He aims to reduce the tax and regulatory burdens, reform education, lower energy costs, make government operations more efficient, pay the hospitals what the state owes them, releasing millions of federal funds in the process,  and stabilize our budget by containing expenses, especially health care. The Democrats can’t very well attack his real agenda, so they must rely on the improbable fable that Paul LePage grew bored with running Mardens and woke up one day obsessed with a malicious urge to attack Maine’s working people, harass our faithful public workers, raise health costs, and increase property taxes.

Nothing in that agenda qualifies as “extreme” and the Democrats can’t very well argue they are better able to accomplish those ends, since they failed to do so when they ran the show. They must therefore attack Paul LePage on stylistic grounds, i.e., that his statements and manner are extreme. This is why they are hoping that Mike Michaud will run, as seems increasingly likely. They can look forward to a Mr. Nasty versus Mr. Nice contest.

You might think it easy to depict Mike Michaud as a boob. In 2008 he endorse John Edwards for president in the Democratic party. His campaign literature boasted that he had “authored” a constitutional amendment to freeze Social Security in its present form for all eternity. He has said publicly and repeatedly that he had read the Affordable Care Act in its entirety before voting for it – no one did, least of all Mike. He wrote a letter to the Judiciary Committee advocating impeachment proceedings against Vice President Cheney. He has continually advocated revision of NAFTA.

If Maine’s media had a memory they might remind the voters that John Edwards is now remembered as an unusually slimy and mendacious politician; that Mike’s constitutional amendment has received no attention from any congressional committee or state legislature; that no one else in Congress has ever been audacious enough to claim that they read an Act which is longer than a volume of the old Encyclopedia Britannica; that when the Democrats had control of all the investigative resources of the federal government they made no effort to investigate Dick Cheney’s “high crimes and misdemeanors,” or that the president, not Congress, has effective control over trade policy.

But there’s no evidence that our dominant media have a memory for such things. If they had, we would see occasional reminders that Eliot Cutler, the man they all endorsed for governor in 2010, advocated charter schools and severely  criticized Maine’s public education and the Maine Education  Association.

In 2012 the Raye campaign made much of the fact that RollCall.com had included Mike in the “Obscure Caucus,” a list of Republican and Democratic congressmammals whose influence, ideas, and activities were all but totally unknown. This had no effect. Obscurity is Mike Michaud’s most important asset. His record leaves no trace. He appears before the voters simply as a nice guy, a man who’s ever anxious to please, a warm hand-shake attached to a beaming Smiley Face. If LePage attacks his absurd record he will appear as Mr. Nasty attacking Mr. Nice.

Lance Harvell (R-Farmington) recently found himself having dinner with the representative and gave me an interesting account of their conversation. Every time he tried to get an opinion on an issue, Mike first probed him for what he thought and adjusted his responses accordingly, insofar as he responded at all.

Mike Michaud’s Delphic Oracle is the latest poll and all his public views are reflections of what he believes the voters believe. If he ever experienced an idea of his own he would immediately seek medical relief. Having no real ideas of his own he has no jagged edges. Paul LePage has very definite ideas and expresses them forcefully, even tactlessly. The polls seem to show that around 40-42% of Maine’s voters like this, or are at least ready to forgive it.  Liberal voters hate it. The moderates and mushies are alarmed by it.

It follows that the Democrats’ winning strategy will be to retain the liberal base (which the Gallup Poll estimates as 22% of Maine’s voters) and stampede the swinger vote into the Democratic column by representing LePage as the Beast of the Blaine House, a rude, crude, menacing ultra-right wing extremist.

The DGA’s preferred outcome is a Democratic victory. Replacing LePage with a cooperative “independent” like Eliot Cutler is an acceptable alternative.  Their petition serves both ends.

Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhomecompanion.com and can be reached at: jfrary8070@aol.com

About John Frary

Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhomecompanion.com and can be reached at: jfrary8070@aol.com

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