Ben Grant, Maine’s Democratic Party chairman was a happy man on Wednesday, after hearing that voters repealed the ban on same-day voter registration.

I quote: “We felt good coming in and we knew we had run a better campaign. It feels good to get a win, but this isn’t the last vote of 2011, it’s the first of 2012. We need to take this momentum into next year.”

This statement is an interesting one and deserves a close examination.

If the Democrats felt good coming into the campaign, their intuition has been fully justified. Grant’s claim that his party ran a better campaign also has strong support from the result.

I don’t doubt that the Democrats feel good at getting a win. They lost on pension reform, health insurance reform and tax reform in the last legislative session. They gave way on the budget. Their only qualified win was in the regulatory reform compromises contained in L.D. 1. Even that contained the tacit concession that when the Democrats controlled state government, they failed to enact the reforms they now agree were needed.

The odd part of Grant’s statement is his claim that Question 1 was the first vote of 2012. Actually, the first vote of 2012 was the special election in District 24.

The Republican legislator resigned under circumstances that were an embarrassment to the GOP, and the Democrats ran a pretty good candidate. (I met David Pearson during my kamikaze congressional campaign in 2008 and was favorably impressed by the man). Still, the Republican, Raymond Wallace, won, and I doubt the Democrats will find a better candidate than Pearson for the seat next year.

The interesting question Grant’s statement raises is this: Will the Democrats be able to “take this momentum into next year?”

Events alone will determine whether the Democrats resume control of Maine’s government, but the question before us is how much momentum does the Question 1 result really represent?

There were any number of letters to the editor denouncing plots by the national GOP to “suppress the vote.” We can expect this accusation to be repeated in Maine, and across the country, in 2012. This claim runs into the fact that every state where the Democrats have dominated the legislature for years has a more stringent deadline than the one proposed in L.D. 1376.

Shenna Bellows, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said, “Maine voters sent a clear message: No one will be denied a right to vote. Voters in small towns and big cities voted to protect our constitutional right.”

Bellows seems to be telling us that 42 states, many of them controlled by liberal Democrats, are denying their citizens the constitutional right to register on election day.

I don’t know for certain how much momentum the Democrats count on getting from this bogus civil liberties issue, although I doubt they will get much.

Nearly as I can tell, they may be able to get some advantage from election day registration in about four legislative districts. But there’s no way they can expect a duplication of the students’ 2008 enthusiasm for the Windy City Messiah. That was crucial to their success in 2008, but those glory days are gone, never to return.

Recent polls suggest that the Democrats are losing a major momentum-generator, i.e., the demonization of our governor.

I have a card distributed on behalf of the Democrats’ District 121 (Cape Elizabeth) special election candidate last August. It denounces “Paul LePage and his extreme agenda,” says that “the LePage Republicans are pushing extreme policies based on ideology,” and vows to oppose “the misguided priorities of Governor LePage and the current majority.”

The card makes no mention of the Democratic candidate’s Republican opponent. It says nothing about the governor’s dastardly policies.

Recent polls showing the governor’s popularity rising sharply as President Barack Obama’s drops downward suggest that Grant and the Democrats will have to look for an alternative strategy to generate momentum.

Sure, Grant can rely on the lingering rage of the Mural Majority. And the Portland Phoenix will continue to seethe with rage, condemning LePage as Satan’s servant. But this persistent venom appears to have a diminishing effect.

John Frary, of Farmington, is a retired professor and former Republican candidate for Congress.


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