Maine is going to be thrust into the national political spotlight, and it won’t be pretty.
The national media unfortunately has already framed our election as the re-election of a “tea-party” bully, or the election of the nation’s first openly gay governor.
Millions of dollars are pouring into our state, from every imaginable group.
If I were Eliot Cutler’s political consultant, I would be telling him that he should be positioning himself much more strongly as the obvious alternative to both political party candidates. A man in the middle, independent, standing between ultraconservative Gov. Paul LePage and progressively liberal, partisan politics.
Come on, Cutler, don’t be afraid to take the gloves off; otherwise, you will be history.
Mike Michaud had the courage to take his political chances. Now it’s your turn.
In my mind’s eye, I can see comparison ads with pictures and titles: “Michaud, left; Cutler, independent; LePage, right. Cutler for Governor: The answer to two extremes.”
Culter should develop his campaign around voter rejection of ultrapartisan politics. No risk-no reward, as he undoubtedly learned in the world of investments.
Cutler needs to recognize that no highly partisan voter is going to vote for him this time. Therefore, he should go for every voter who is independent enough to vote for the candidate best qualified by intellect, ideas and worldly experience to lead Maine. A candidate able to bring people together for real solutions to the state’s problems.
The voters he seeks comprise the vast majority of the electorate, some Republican, some Democrat, and all independents (unenrolled), the single largest category of voters. Didn’t he choose the independent road because of the burgeoning need to put a stop to “politics as usual?”
Will Cutler tell it like it is, on behalf of all who are fed up with exclusively partisan politics, that Maine will continue in gridlock if either LePage or Michaud is elected? He needs to attract those voters who regardless of registration tell us every election that they always vote for the best person for the job.
His supporters are watching and waiting. The last poll gives him 18 percent voter support, and unlike four years ago, he can’t count on either candidate crashing and burning. So, what has he got to lose? Let’s make it really interesting.
Do the math: Cutler still could garner just enough votes to finish first on election night. As little as 35 percent could be enough, with LePage and Michaud splitting the remaining 65 percent evenly.
Cutler actually is in an advantageous position: He has no voting record to be attacked.
The governor and the congressman have voting records alive with many non-representative, and (if properly revealed) unpopular positions, on far-ranging issues from economic to social.
LePage doesn’t believe much in any investment and thinks government is totally worthless. He believes bond issues are the devil’s tool and that no service is worth taxation. Michaud, on the other hand, has never seen taxes that he didn’t favor, and seems indecisive about several issues, especially those affecting women.
Cutler’s campaign needs to point out his two opponents’ voting records, while presenting his excellent ideas and position papers.
He needs to define himself as a highly experienced, successful entrepreneur, someone who sees the big picture and thinks outside the box, working for some time now to serve the state he loves.
One of the biggest opportunities for him and his campaign would be a series of at least three debates. He must keep the pressure on the media and various organizations to sponsor those debates, and to demand candidate participation.
I have little doubt that he would be the most impressive on TV again. He can seal the deal, by proving with a hard-hitting comparison campaign, that he has no wish to be a “spoiler.” He is in it to win it, and still can. An endorsement from his friend, Sen. Angus King, who owes him big time, would help.
This is “Cutler’s last stand.” Follow my campaign suggestions and watch what happens to the polls.
(Just some unsolicited advice from a political junkie (consultant) having some fun and hoping to help create a more competitive, exciting three-way race for governor.)
Don Roberts is a former city councilor and vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta. He is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District, and a representative to the Legislative Policy Committee of Maine Municipal Association.