It started out as a kind of April Fool’s joke, garnering a few chuckles and some raised eyebrows. Paul LePage said he might run against Angus King for the United States Senate.Then he added this punchline: “I’ve done more for Maine than King.”

Someone should send a note into the isolation chamber that the governor and his closest allies are living in. Angus King has been very popular in Maine since he was the governor. He’s well-liked for his accomplishments, intelligence, non-partisanship, decency and good humor. Recent polling show two-thirds of Mainers approve of Angus King. Just over one-third have the same feelings about LePage.

The reasons are simple. LePage has gotten almost nothing accomplished since his first two years in office. He’s relentlessly partisan, mean-spirited and destructive. He regularly misdiagnoses the state’s ailments and then applies the wrong medicine. And as his power wanes, he’s becoming increasingly erratic and thin-skinned.

Last Sunday, LePage offered a preview of his campaign themes, in a guest column. It repeated his standard applause lines for speeches to friendly audiences, full of partisan attacks and finger-pointing.

When LePage first ran for governor, in 2010, his main argument to voters was that 30 years of Democratic rule had impoverished Mainers, put wilderness ahead of people and prioritized welfare cheats over taxpayers. It was an effective appeal, primarily because Democrats had no response on the economy and were so defensive about the rest of it that, for all practical purposes, they didn’t respond.

He’s updated those arguments, now, in some interesting ways. Instead of blaming 30 years of Democratic liberalism for Maine’s woes, he now attacks 40 years of Democratic “socialist” thinking. That will come as a shock to former governors Brennan and Baldacci.

LePage argues that he has no responsibility for Maine having the slowest-growing economy in New England. It’s not his fault that most of his major initiatives were killed with the help of his own party in the Legislature. Or that his grand tax plan was so radical that even Republican leaders couldn’t support it. Somebody else must be to blame for the quiet death of his idea to bypass the Legislature in favor of government by referendum, which couldn’t get enough signatures to get on the ballot.

LePage apparently thinks someone else has been governor these last six years.

Part of the problem for LePage is that he has a deeply-engrained habit of blaming others for whatever goes wrong, which means that he rarely learns from his mistakes. And he usually blames the wrong people. He recently argued, for instance, that our paper mills were closing because of Democrat’s policies on taxes and energy, ignoring the fact that we have the lowest electricity costs in New England and the market for paper is collapsing as more of us communicate online rather than through the mail.

In last week’s op-ed, and in his “town meetings” around the state, LePage has unveiled his main arguments for this fall’s elections, and for his own possible future run. It’s not much of a campaign slogan, but here it is: “I did nothing and it’s their fault.”

Let’s help the governor think through this Senate race idea, before it’s too late. There are only two reasons why Paul LePage is the governor right now. One is that Democrats twice put up insider candidates when the public was clamoring for outsider change. The other is that he ran in three-way races where he could win with less than a majority.

My old friend Al Diamon wrote recently that LePage could win a race against King, if Democrats put up a candidate who will siphon votes from King, and he’s right. For two election cycles now, Democrats have been blaming independent “spoilers” for LePage’s rise, rather than looking in the mirror. “Spoilers should put aside their personal ambition and get out of the race,” they’ve said, “for the good of the state.”

If a race actually materializes between Paul LePage and Angus King, Democrats will have a chance to walk their own talk. Since no major Democrat will run against King, the best they could do is to put up a spoiler with no chance of winning but every chance of tilting the race to LePage.

That would not only infect the country with LePage, it could also help ensure that Republicans maintain control of the Senate.

What should Democrats do, if a King-LePage race unfolds? Practice what they preach. Put Maine and the country ahead of the party. Then get behind Angus King.

Alan Caron, a Waterville native, owns Caron Communications and is the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” (2015) and “Reinventing Maine Government” (2010). He can be reached at: [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: