At the “Eggs & Issues forum” in Portland, all 5 GOV candidates were “peppered” with “with quite a variety of” questions.
On whether “medical marijuana” will “hurt” ME, “all five said no.”
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On “Should the governor have line-item veto power?” Atty/ex-OMB Assoc. Dir. for Natural Resources, Energy and Science/Jimmy Carter ex-aide Eliot Cutler (I): “Absolutely yes.”
Waterville Mayor Paul LePage (R): “A good governor doesn’t need it, but a weak governor may have to have it.”
‘84 SEN nominee/‘90 ME-01 candidate/state Senate Pres./ex-state House Speaker Libby Mitchell (D): “No. I don’t need it.”
On the question “Would you raise the sales tax to balance the budget?”
Cutler: “The first thing we have to do is get the spending under control. We have to squeeze the living bejesus out of (the budget).”
LePage: “Prioritize, then look at it.”
Mitchell: “No for now, and I want to know what bejesus means” (Covers, Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 10/11).
LePage “outlined his vision for the state” in a 10/8 “speech before about 60 people at an event hosted by the Brunswick Rotary Club, Coastal Rotary Club of Brunswick and the Topsham Espresso Rotary.”
LePage: “This campaign is really going to be about people ahead of politics. And my whole career in Waterville and throughout my working life had been pretty much about people.”
More LePage: “The next governor is facing a bad economy in Maine, not only brought on by the recession, but by 35 years of one-party control. We need to unleash the job creators” (Metzler, Portland Press Herald, 10/9).
All Grown Up
Bangor Daily News profiles each of the candidates job growth plans.
For Cutler “the first steps toward true, long-term economic growth begin by lowering the costs of health care, energy and government combined with changing the regulatory environment in state government.” Cutler “wants to create an Energy Finance Authority that will take advantage of its status as a public entity to secure low-interest, tax-exempt financing for energy infrastructure projects or to help private businesses reduce their energy costs.”
“At the heart of” LePage’s “regulatory reform program is a proposal to require that every state agency review rules ‘to prove their regulatory policies improve Maine and are not just a roadblock to new job opportunities.’” LePage “would also institute a policy in which state agencies have 90 days to respond to new business permits.”
Mitchell “has argued that” ME “can create new, sustainable jobs by investing in Maine’s “green economy” through a dual focus on conservation measures and development of renewable energy sources as well as by strengthening programs aimed at encouraging business investment. She would expand the current focus on home and business weatherization by continuing to seek federal funding and dedicating revenues from the cap-and-trade program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative toward conservation” (10/8).
It’s Already Snoweing In Maine
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) and Sen. Susan Collins (R) “are not on the ballot next month, but they are on the campaign trail for other GOP candidates across the state, and in other states.”
Snowe “has appeared at events with the GOP top of the ticket candidates” including LePage and “so has Collins.” And “Collins said she has appeared with dozens of local candidates throughout the state and has campaigned in Philadelphia for” PA SEN nominee Pat Toomey (R) and says “she may campaign for other” SEN “candidates if she is asked and schedules permit.”
Collins: “This is a very important election here in Maine and across the country. These elections are going to be so critical in determining the future of our state that I have to be involved”
Snowe: “I am going to be campaigning very hard for Republican candidates in Maine, which is my first priority, but also across the country. I will be attending events and helping to raise money and doing as much as I can to help candidates” (Leary, Bangor Daily News, 10/10).
No Indie Cred
“Despite spending more money than any other candidate and impressing people with his command of the issues, Cutler has been unable to build any momentum, polls show. Barring a surge in the last weeks of the campaign, Cutler’s popularity may have peaked this summer.”
“Cutler said he has noticed a surge of support at campaign events in the past week, due to his performance at recent forums and debates. He said the polls in September worried him, but he now believes he can win.”
Culter: “The only question is whether I have enough time, and I think I do” (Bell, Central Maine Morning Sentinel, 10/8).
The Tipping Point
Central Maine Morning Sentinel’s Tipping offers candid criticism for the GOV candidates, writing “Mitchell campaign’s first two TV commercials of the general election show stark contrasts between her” LePage “on the environment and education.” But “political scientists tell us that these kinds of contrast ads do the most to inform the electorate, and they’re probably the best move to make for a candidate who is down in the polls, but they also, obviously, contain a negative message. Attacking one’s opponent, even on legitimate differences of policy, has inherent risks, especially in Maine’s easy-going political culture.”
For LePage “the mistakes have been numerous” and “most have been personal gaffes rather than strategic blunders, but the fact he keeps making them points toward larger problems within his campaign.”
LePage “should have taken a personal crash course in both public policy and public relations. It will take a lot to repair the damage LePage has done to his campaign and change his public image as a reckless and dishonest right-wing candidate. The best thing he can do now is to hire some good communications staff and actually do what they tell him to. He should pay special attention to advice about message consistency. The best way to avoid making that kind of public mistake is to be prepared with a simple, clear and relevant message and to stick to it and not get sidetracked. LePage may have already begun to make the necessary changes. The campaign recently hired a new press secretary, Dan Demeritt, who has previously done communications for the” ME GOPers (10/10).
The Republican Party is in the midst of a self-immolating primary that pits its electable, if unpopular, moderate wing against its unelectable, passionate flank. President Obama has more than 10 times the cash on hand as his nearest rival, and his team is rapidly building a ground organization unlike any seen in modern politics. And, slowly, the economy is bouncing back.
Those should be sure signs of a president cruising toward reelection. But Obama’s team doesn’t sleep easy at night, and it shouldn’t: The eight-month path between now and Election Day contains a series of obstacles, all of which pose threats of various degrees to the president’s campaign. They are the three G’s — gas, Greece, and the Gulf.
Together, those three factors represent what former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might call the “known unknowns” of the campaign. They conspire to throw the best-laid plans of even the smartest campaigns off-track and off-message, and they demonstrate the limited power of the presidency in an age of global economic connectivity and turmoil.
Already, rising gasoline prices have damaged Obama’s standing and sapped some of the consumer confidence that was building around a reviving economy. A CBS/New York Times poll released on Tuesday showed Obama’s approval rating falling to 41 percent, its lowest point ever in that survey and a 9-point drop since the second week of February. Just 39 percent said they approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, down 5 points since last month. That precipitous drop has come as gas prices skyrocketed from an average of $3.47 a gallon when Obama registered a 50 percent approval rating in the last New York Times survey on Feb. 13, to $3.81 a gallon on Wednesday.
Republicans, wisely, began hammering Obama over gas prices weeks ago, before most Americans began feeling the most acute pain at the pump. The cost of gas rises predictably during each spring; a senior Republican strategist involved in developing the gas-price line of attack confided that the party was getting a head start, to put itself in a position to capitalize when Americans tuned in. The difference between this year and other years, however, is that prices have begun to spike earlier in the year than in the past; over the past six years, gas prices have traditionally spiked around May and June, rather than in February and March, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.
Meanwhile, the threat of a possible shooting war in the Middle East looms larger than ever. Israeli officials are talking openly of attacking nuclear facilities in Iran, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told National Journal that the United States has begun preparing military options if economic and diplomatic sanctions fail. If Israel attacks, they will likely do so with American support — not only political, but also military. Though politics used to stop at the water’s edge, any open conflict would have ripple effects in the presidential contest.
The problem is neither side is confident in its analysis of how those ripple effects would play out.
But the biggest threat to Obama’s reelection chances comes not from the Middle East; it comes from Europe, where financial instability could lead to another recession. Greece’s teetering economy is being bailed out in small increments, in exchange for major austerity measures negotiated by the European Central Bank, Germany, and France. But election years in the United States can bring governing to a grinding halt, and Greece is no different. Legislative elections set for April or May could put austerity negotiations on hold, jeopardizing the delicate task of restructuring the Greek economy.
And though they have moved off the front pages, the financial situations in Italy, Spain, and Portugal remain precarious. The interconnected global economy means any disaster in Europe, no matter how contained, would reverberate here. Every bit of bad news in Athens leads to a bad day on Wall Street.
In all three cases, there is little an incumbent president can do to alleviate these looming threats in the short run. Even if the federal government were to allow offshore oil drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline, it would be years until the additional capacity reached U.S. markets; short of opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Obama has few options that would lead directly to lower gas prices. If Israel decides its window of opportunity to delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions is closing, there is little Obama can do to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off, while political pressure back home could force the United States to back its special ally. And the success — or failure — of the Greek recovery lies more in Angela Merkel’s hands than in Obama’s, putting a major factor in the future of the U.S. economy’s rebound out of White House control.
Democrats felt good about Obama’s prospects in February. But political reality — and the realities of the limits of the presidency — temper their moods. The known unknowns that will cloud the next eight months mean neither side can be assured of victory, no matter how bright the latest poll seems.
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