With the return of Michael Bloomberg to the scene of perhaps his most ignominious defeat since he was fired by Solomon Brothers in 1981, it’s worth taking a look at the past before looking ahead to what is sure to be another tumultuous political year.

Bloomberg didn’t lose his attempt to impose greater restrictions on our right to bear arms because he lacked funding: the 2016 Yes on Question Three campaign to require background checks for all gun transfers spent vast sums, over $7 million dollars, on their attempt to expand big government in Maine. They also got support from a number of the state’s papers, including this paper, the Ellsworth American, and the Bangor Daily News, amongst others. The entire state wasn’t stacked against him, nor was he necessarily expected to lose — polls showed the yes side ahead.

Despite popular perceptions otherwise, those opposing greater gun control didn’t vastly outspend their opponents to pull off the upset; instead they were outspent by more than five-to-one. While they may not have had funding on their side, they did have one enormous advantage: commitment.

Bloomberg’s opponents were very committed to defeating his proposal and ensuring that Mainers’ freedoms remained intact. That’s the consistent reason that gun control efforts have failed in Maine: not because gun control advocates lacked money, time, or resources, but because they lacked commitment. In politics, often the most committed side wins, despite being expected to lose by a hefty margin.

That same dynamic could come into play again in Maine politics this year. Certainly, current indications are that the advocates in favor of overturning the state’s new mandatory vaccination law have the most committed supporters. They’ve managed to heavily out-raise their opponents, despite heavy hitters like the Maine Hospital Association and the Maine Medical Association opposing their efforts. They’ve also continued their successful grassroots organizing efforts evidenced during the signature-gathering phase, as they’ve been able to dot the landscape with signs despite wintry weather. It may not continue straight through until March, but right now they seem to be the most committed by a country mile.

In the Democratic presidential primary, Bloomberg seems not to have learned his lessons from 2016 and is again counting on an enormous money advantage. Rather than drawing enthusiasm, his strategy seems to rely on a lack of commitment from voters to the other Democrats — especially Joe Biden. That approach is completely understandable: while Biden is certainly the frontrunner, he hardly has the most committed supporters in the field. Instead, that honor goes to Bernie Sanders, who’s nipping at Biden’s heels. Right now, Sanders is leading in the polls in New Hampshire; winning the Iowa caucuses on Monday would give him the chance to prevail in the first three contests.


The mistake that Bloomberg is making is in presuming that Biden’s stumbles out of the gate will cause Democrats to turn their attention to him. He may be operating on theory that Democrats are so desperate to defeat Trump that they’re unwilling to risk it by nominating Bernie Sanders. The problem with that theory is that if Biden’s campaign falls apart, picking another lackluster candidate is also unlikely to halt Bernie Sanders’ rise. Instead, Democrats are more likely to come to terms with Sanders as their candidate, just as most Republicans did with Donald Trump in 2016.

The level of commitment is also going to determine the winner in Maine’s U.S. Senate race this year. In 2012, Senate Democrats were thoroughly committed to retaking the Maine seat after Olympia Snowe retired. Not only were they willing to completely abandon their own candidate, Cynthia Dill, in favor of Angus King, they convinced several potential contenders to skip the race completely.

So far this cycle, Democrats aren’t showing that level of commitment. Their attacks on Susan Collins focusing on the minutiae of the impeachment process aren’t likely to to be remembered by many voters. They’re also not unusual, as Democrats have consistently engaged in these kind of arguments against Collins over the years, and it’s gotten them exactly nowhere. They haven’t shown much imagination in candidate recruitment, either: all of their potential candidates are, just like Collins’ opponents in prior races, liberals from southern Maine.

Regardless of the contest — whether it’s a federal campaign, a referendum, or a local race — it’s always important to pay attention to which side has the most committed supporters. While that can be hard to judge at times, it’s often a sign of who will win — even if they’re completely written off by the pundits and prognosticators.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jimfossel

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