Where is Gov. Paul LePage when Donald Trump needs him most?

Halfway through the four-day Republican National Convention, the newly minted presidential nominee finds himself embroiled in, of all things, a plagiarism scandal.

Trump’s wife, Melania, had no sooner wowed the convention Monday night with words of praise for her spouse when the Twitterverse exploded with incontrovertible evidence that some of those same phrases were first uttered eight years ago by Michelle Obama to describe her husband.

That’s right, the person who Trump & Co. now most love to hate, in addition to Hillary Clinton. Go figure.

Did Melania do it on her own? Doubtful.

Did her speechwriters, referred to by Republican pundit Mike Murphy as “the campaign speechwriting team of Xerox and Konica,” get a little lazy? Bet on it.


More importantly, with his own wife now getting scorched by his latest campaign conflagration, what’s The Donald going to do about it?

Enter Paul LePage. He’s got experience at this kind of thing.

Remember back in 2014, when the LePage administration had its hopes for major Medicaid reform pinned squarely on a contract, valued at just under $1 million, with The Alexander Group?

Conservatives at the time lauded Gary Alexander, the firm’s founder, as a guru at slashing states’ health-care costs by amazing – seriously, folks, we’re talking amazing here – amounts of money without hurting anyone. Except, of course, all those freeloaders who had no business getting government help in the first place.

Then came one of Alexander’s long-awaited reports and, not long after that, the discovery by a plagiarism expert at Dalhousie University that significant chunks of the report had been lifted verbatim from a variety of other sources.

So what did LePage do about it?


Well, he stopped payment on roughly half of the $925,000 yet to be collected by Alexander and his cronies, although he let them keep the half they’d already pocketed.

His administration kept using some of Alexander’s discredited projections, which later proved (no surprise) to be spectacularly off target.

But hey, at least LePage admitted the obvious: He canceled the remainder of the Alexander Group contract and declared, “I am not happy about this.”

(This after Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew earlier chastised Democrats and the media for choosing “to politicize punctuation over policy.”)

Which brings us back to Mrs. Trump, who we can only assume is either mortified that she got caught cribbing or ready to behead the genius who thought her national rollout might be an opportune time for her to channel Michelle Obama.

After several early-Tuesday-morning stumbles, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stepped up to the microphones in Cleveland and essentially denied reality.


“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech,” Manafort declared. He then went on (a la Mary Mayhew) to falsely blame the media and Hillary Clinton for going after poor Melania because, get this, Mrs. Trump apparently is the kind of woman who “threatens” the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Trump, meanwhile, refused to even acknowledge a problem in his early morning Tweet: “It was truly an honor to introduce my wife, Melania. Her speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible. Very proud!”

At least he got the “incredible” part right.

Back to LePage, who had planned to go to Cleveland as a Trump supporter but backed out two weeks ago.

“If I felt that he needed me there, I’d have gone,” LePage told WVOM radio hosts George Hale and Ric Tyler at the time.

Little did LePage know.


Had he been there this week, the governor could have gone knocking urgently on the door to Trump’s inner circle. Check that – he could have worked through his buddy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, rather than risk hearing someone from Team Trump respond, “LePage? LePage who?”

His message: Denial is not an option here. Lop off a head or two and move on – you’d be amazed how quickly modern-day Republicans forget anything that clashes with their perception of the way life should be.

Of course, that strategy was easy for LePage. He simply had to give the heave-ho to Alexander, who has since repackaged himself as one of two partners atop Velum Health, which, according to its website, “works with commercial and government entities to significantly lower health care costs without sacrificing services for the consumers and beneficiaries.”

Trump, on the other hand, finds his own wife at the middle of this completely avoidable maelstrom.

A wife who hasn’t exactly been jumping at the chance to speak on her husband’s behalf in the first place.

A wife whose plagiarism was matched only by her prescience when she also said Monday evening, “There will be good times and hard times and unexpected turns – it would not be a Trump contest without excitement and drama.”



So why not nip this blossoming drama in the bud? Why not announce that some previously unknown flunky just received his walking papers for embarrassing the one person in Trump’s universe, beyond The Donald himself, you least want to offend?

Why not – and I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this right now – pull a page from the LePage playbook, admit the error and move on?

Back when he announced his endorsement of Trump on Howie Carr’s radio show in February, LePage noted that he and Trump are “cut from the same cloth” and that with his buddy Christie recently out of the presidential race, it only made sense to line up behind the one presidential hopeful who can’t seem to walk across a room without stepping in it.

“I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump,” LePage boasted.

He can say that again.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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