Politics & Other Mistakes: Losing focus
The Maine Republican Party would own this state if it could just pay attention long enough to complete a few simple tasks. Such as:
Get Gov. Paul LePage to shut his fat yap.
Convince GOP state chairman Charlie Webster that he’s about to get dumped, and no underhanded attempt at rule-changing will save him.
Force its feuding factions – with Tea Partiers and Ron Paul fanatics on one side and so-called “establishment” Republicans on the other – to quit bickering over irrelevant crap left over from the state convention.
It might also help if the GOP could find a 1st District congressional candidate who hadn’t been scanned by astronomers at NASA and written off as displaying no signs of intelligent life. But even without being able to elect a U.S. representative from southern Maine (due mostly to the heavy concentration of liberal voters in Cumberland County and the incumbent Democrat being married to a money gusher), Republicans ought to be well-positioned to dominate the rest of the state’s elections for the next decade or two.
Consider these advantages:
The Democrats have no strong leaders (Cynthia Dill? Did you say Cynthia Dill? Really?).
Even if the Dems develop some form of leadership with a functional nervous system above the neck, they’re so spooked about the possibility of again having their candidate split the liberal-moderate vote with an independent that they’re not only conceding a winnable state Senate seat this year in the district made up of Windham, Raymond, Casco, Standish and Hollis, but also preparing to nominate another nonentity for governor in 2014 (Cynthia Dill? Did you say Cynthia Dill? Really?) to give independent Eliot Cutler a better shot at defeating LePage.
Unlike the GOP, which has a clear agenda (cut spending and reduce taxes), the Democrats have no easily explained platform (raising taxes to pay for expanding Medicaid and other welfare programs probably won’t cut it, and neither will Cynthia Dill’s fantasies about all the jobs she thinks she’s created).
So, Republicans should be positioned to suck up a couple of decades worth of political power. If, that is, they could just stop sucking at public relations. Which, as recent events have confirmed, they can’t.
Take, for instance, a little incident that began last year, when GOP U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe was feeling pressured by the Tea Party, which was planning to run a candidate against her in the 2012 primary. Snowe didn’t want to get blindsided by the insurgents, as had happened to prominent Republican in other states, so she asked all Maine’s significant GOP officeholders to endorse her, something that’s usually not done in primaries. LePage, who has close ties with many TPers, is also loyal to Snowe’s late husband, who helped him get into college more than three decades ago. He promptly expressed his support for her, as did the rest of the GOP hierarchy – with one notable exception.
Charlie Summers, the secretary of state, for reasons that defy common sense, took a pass. Prior to becoming a constitutional officer, Summers had worked for Snowe for many years. He was also indebted to her for clearing away the red tape in 2008, thereby allowing him to serve a tour of duty in the Navy in Iraq, a move that enhanced his political stature in his bid for Congress that year.
Snowe didn’t take the snub well. Following her surprise decision not to seek another term, she began acting as if Summers, the Republican candidate to replace her, didn’t exist. Which, given his most recent poll numbers, might not be far from the truth. The rift all but assures that what should have been a safe GOP seat will be lost to independent Angus King in the fall election.
If this were the only sign of party disunity, it might not have broader implications. But with LePage offering weekly rhetorical reasons for Republican moderates to distance themselves from him (the IRS is the “new Gestapo,” “I don’t care where you go in this country, if you come from Maine, you’re looked down upon now”), he’s adding to the stress fractures. Then there was chairman Webster’s clumsy attempt to pack the state committee with his hand-picked supporters to thwart efforts by the Paultroons to oust him. And when disgruntled GOP mainstreamers Peter Cianchette and Jan Staples issued wholesale challenges to the seating of Maine national convention delegates who favor Ron Paul, the sound of seams splitting could be heard all the way to LePage’s retirement home in Florida.
It won’t be difficult to quantify the impact these distractions have on the November vote. If Republican Kevin Raye loses to Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in the 2nd District, if Dems make major gains in the Legislature, if Cynthia Dill finishes in double figures, it will largely be the fault of the above-mentioned pols for letting their egos and emotions mess up what should have been a custom-made scenario for long-term success.
I’ll shut my fat yap. Open yours by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.