Everybody is missing the real reason Maine Gov. Paul LePage spent two weeks in Washington, D.C. He wasn’t looking for a job in the Trump administration; instead he was deciding if he could cope with life in the nation’s capital as a U.S. senator.

That’s the next job that LePage, now parading a new slimmed-down physique, is interested in. He has shown signs of becoming a politician.

Buoyed by the success of Donald Trump, whose campaign was a microcosm of LePage’s in Maine, the governor now has his sights set on the U.S. Senate seat of independent Angus King. LePage dislikes King personally and politically. To LePage, King is a fat-cat opportunist, nothing more than a progressive Democrat in sheep’s clothing.

The governor may be accurate in his appraisal of King’s politics and voting record, but LePage would be facing a politician whose strength at the polls gives him the aura of invincibility. No matter. In LePage’s’ mind, the Donald’s success in becoming president against all odds is proof positive that it can be done, and that he is the man who can do it.

LePage sees himself as the agent to help Trump and the Republicans “drain the swamp” in Washington. Furthermore, LePage is a crusader, a man always with a cause — that is why he left his job as a successful businessman and overcame a huge field of experienced politicians in his own party to become governor, and how he later beat a veteran Democrat congressman to stay there. He feels that he sacrificed his comfortable personal life for “the people” in his crusade to save Maine. With apologies to Johnny Carson, my Carnac crystal ball says LePage will soon announce his intention to seek the Republican Party nomination for U.S. senator. It is his for the asking from the base of Maine’s conservative party.

LePage the crusader vs. the progressive King, a phony independent who does not represent Maine’s values. That is how Maine’s governor sees the race. A successful businessman, a man of the people, pulls the upset of the century. Sound familiar?

In assessing the odds there are some undeniable facts. LePage will be betting that he can parlay another three-way race into victory with a minority base that he thinks will remain loyal to him. The governor probably sees 40 percent as a win, but that depends on what the Democrats do. A LePage vs. King contest would force an interesting revelation. Would the Democrats embrace King’s re-election and provide only a token candidate — or no candidate at all? That would prove LePage’s charge about King being a progressive Democrat.

The Democrats would be faced with a tough choice, because they and everybody else who follows politics know that LePage will not garner 51 percent of the vote in a head-to-head matchup against the popular King, a man whose politics are acceptable to the party.

However, if it is a three-way, and the Democrat candidate’s vote is significant, then the race could be tipped to LePage with the split wide enough for 40 percent to win. If a Democrat nominee should receive 10 percent or more, then LePage could pull the upset.

Maine’s primaries will be held 15 months from now, with candidate filing deadlines in March. LePage needs to make his decision very soon. If he runs against King, his success will be inextricably tied to that of President Trump’s agenda.

Another factor affecting a U.S. Senate race is a wide open race for governor as LePage completes his two terms. A cloudy crystal ball sees Democrat Attorney General Janet Mills emerging now as a leading candidate to replace LePage. Mills is already touring the state as an activist attorney general, leading the “resist” crowd against Trump.

Meanwhile, a dark horse looms on the horizon in the form of businessman Adam Lee of Lee Auto Mall. Lee is the son of the late Shep Lee, a longtime force in the Democratic Party, whose closest friends were Ed Muskie, a Maine governor and presidential candidate, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. Lee will have plenty of campaign funds and incredible insider support. Lee would be the Democrat’s version of a non-politician and successful businessman. A fresh new face. Many Republicans will be throwing their hats into the primary ring, with Rick Bennett, the former Senate President and GOP state chairman, in position to raise the money and to call in the chips.

Carnac says goodnight, Johnny and Ed, wherever you are.

Don Roberts is a veteran broadcaster, writer and political consultant. He has served Augusta as a city councilor at-large, charter commission vice chairman and utilities district treasurer.


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