Hand it to Gov. Paul LePage. The man knows how to get attention — and keep us guessing.

The latest proof came Thursday morning, when a liberal blogger released an audio tape of the governor’s gruff voice saying he was working on a divisive, ground-breaking and secret initiative, and planned to call the Legislature back to Augusta to pass it.

Republican legislative leaders paused their re-election campaigns to take questions from reporters, only to insist they didn’t know what he was talking about.

The governor’s staff, apparently blind-sided by the leak and busy trying to contain the speculation, postponed the recording of LePage’s weekly radio address from Thursday to Friday.

Online commenters marshaled their outrage and support. By Thursday night, the news report on the Portland Press Herald’s website had more than 500 comments. (That’s a whole lot — about half the number of comments LePage generated from around the country when he compared the IRS to the Gestapo.)

On Twitter, rampant speculation and commentary blossomed into Internet meme. A hash tag was created: #LePageSecretPlan.

Bloggers posted their best guesses: Was LePage going to introduce right-to-work legislation? More Medicaid and welfare cuts? Voter ID?

Environmentalists wondered: Maybe the governor will make an anti-climate change proclamation.

Skeptics began wondering aloud whether the whole thing was a ruse.

And when newspapers arrived Friday morning, the governor had once again lived up to his nickname, “Front Page LePage.”

Not bad for a two-minute audio clip taken at a Republican fundraiser.

BALDACCI GIVES DILL A BOOST

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill is getting some help from former Gov. John Baldacci.

Baldacci, who flirted with his own run for the open Senate seat, sent out a fundraising appeal for Dill Wednesday.

It was a welcome gesture for the Democratic nominee, who complained publicly that national Democratic officials were snubbing her campaign and tacitly supporting the independent candidate, former Gov. Angus King.

Some Maine Democrats, including sitting lawmakers, publicly endorsed King over Dill.

Polls have shown most Democratic voters were supporting King, too. Maine party leaders, however, maintained that Dill has their support.

Last week’s boost from Baldacci appears to confirm that the Maine Democratic establishment hasn’t abandoned her.

It may be no coincidence, of course, that Baldacci followed King into office as governor just as the state’s economy was stalling and the state budget needed some serious cutting.

In his fundraising letter, Baldacci writes that President Obama and the Democrats in the U.S. Senate need help.

“Can you contribute $12 to help Cynthia and to make sure Democrats maintain the majority in the U.S. Senate?

“I’ve known Cynthia for many years and she’s proven to be a strong advocate for her community, for progressive values and for expanding access to opportunity throughout Maine.

“P.S. This race isn’t over. Not by a long shot.”

ONE VOTE LAUNCHES IN MAINE

ONE Vote, the global anti-poverty organization founded by U2 singer Bono, is launching a Maine campaign in Portland this week.

The Maine One Vote 2012 campaign is aimed at building membership and public awareness, but the real targets are the candidates for Maine’s open U.S. Senate seat.

“We’re working in any Senate race where there is an open seat,” said Michael Salamon, the group’s Northeast coordinator.

ONE Vote won’t endorse a candidate or try to influence the outcome of the race, Salamon said. It simply wants to use the election as a learning opportunity.

“We will engage with the candidates and build up support so when they get elected — whoever gets elected — they already know what these issues are about and are ready to act on them.”

The group already has more than 8,000 members in Maine, he said. A state campaign kick-off party will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at 489 Congress St. And no, Bono is not expected to attend.

MARRIAGE GROUP ACCUSED

The National Organization for Marriage has been accused of failing to comply with campaign finance laws in Washington state, where the group has funded an effort to repeal same sex marriage.

NOM made headlines in Maine in 2009, when the group provided nearly two-thirds of the funds to the anti-same sex marriage effort here, but refused to disclose where its money came from in violation of Maine law.

When the Maine ethics commission opened an investigation, NOM sued them and the state in federal court in an unsuccessful attempt to have Maine law ruled unconstitutional. NOM still hasn’t disclosed its 2009 donors in the Maine campaign.

The situation in Washington appears similar, according to court filings there. The organization hasn’t registered as an in-state PAC or ballot question committee, a move that would require it to reveal its donors.

“NOM has a history of ignoring state finance reporting laws and is still tied up in litigation challenging Maine’s disclosure requirements going back to that 2009 marriage battle,” a spokesperson for Washington United for Marriage told the Everett, Wash. Herald.

“There are a tremendous number of parallels, and this is how they operate in state after state,” said Fred Karger, the California-based activist who first brought a complaint against NOM in Maine.

“I just hope I’m alive when they finally reveal their donors in Maine.”

STRIMLING MEETS ‘DARTH’

Who says partisanship has gotten personal?

Former Democratic Maine Sen. Ethan Strimling bumped into renowned Republican strategist Karl Rove in Chicago’s O’Hare airport last week. Rove, known as the political brain of the Bush administration, was a favorite target of Democratic darts.

So what did Strimling do? He struck up a conversation and got Rove to pose with him for a photo, which he proudly posted on his Facebook page. Both men were smiling in the photo and seemed to enjoy each other’s company, although Strimling did have some partisan fun in his Facebook post.

“Who do I run into at Chicago O’Hare? Darth Vader himself, aka Karl Rove!!!” he wrote. “I think this photo is about as close to bipartisan bliss as Karl would allow, but I appreciate his willingness to chat it up.”

Lots of Strimling’s Facebook friends chimed in with their own partisan jokes, aimed at either Rove or Strimling, depending on the commenter’s party status.

One friend suggested a caption for the photo playing on the “Star Wars” reference: “Ethan, I am your father.”

PRIVATIZING MEDICARE OPPOSED

Charlie Summers, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, told the Press Herald Tuesday that he supports vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s controversial budget plan — except, perhaps, it’s most controversial proposal: privatizing Medicare.

Summers, amid a multi-stop campaign tour, said he has “serious reservations about the Medicare part.” He said that it has been his position all along. Medicare works well, he said, and while it needs to be made more efficient it should not be privatized.

“I don’t think we need to get into privatization,” he said.

KING COULD THWART GOP EDGE

New York Times blogger Nate Silver had an interesting preview of his forthcoming analysis of U.S. Senate races.

Silver gives Republicans a 50-49 edge to win the chamber. However, he wrote, Democrats could eliminate that advantage if Mainers elect independent Angus King in November.

Silver believes, along with just about every other political pundit, that King will caucus with Democrats.

Silver noted King’s large lead in the polls and Mainers’ receptiveness to independent candidates.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be reached at 791-6324 or at:

[email protected]

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be reached at 791-6345 or at:

[email protected]

Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be reached art 791-6317 or at:

[email protected]

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