Politics & Other Mistakes: Secret desires
Everywhere I go, people keep asking me, “Who’s going to win the election?" Often, my answer depends on my mood (which ranges from bad to horrendous).
If I’m feeling only mildly miserable, I tell them who I’d like to see elected governor of Maine:
Tony Kornheiser, co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption.” It would be great to have somebody in the Blaine House who wasn’t afraid to say exactly what he or she thought and was capable of saying it with humor. (“I’m told that state revenues were down last month. On the bright side, I don’t care, because I don’t live here.") OK, maybe not.
Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive officer. We’d all get free iPads. And, assuming he hasn’t had a vasectomy, he's the only guy who can create new Jobs. Literally.
Danica Patrick. She’s more than just a gorgeous woman who drives race cars. She’s also smart and tough. And totally hot. I've never had those kinds of feelings about a governor.
But I’m not always that upbeat. When my attitude deteriorates, I tend to reply to the who’s-gonna-win question by listing who isn't:
Rosa (The Rest of the Democrats Suck) Scarcelli.
Bruce (The Rest of the Republicans Suck – But Les Otten Sucks The Most) Poliquin.
Matt (I Feel Your Pain Because My Campaign Is Broke, Too) Jacobson.
Bill (Maybe God Will Vote For Me) Beardsley.
As for the winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries, it may not matter who comes out on top. If the rumors are true, some would-be power brokers are already preparing to sabotage the strategies of the major parties, and hand the governorship to their own guy.
For some time, MaineToday Media – the company that owns the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel newspapers – has been less than subtle in promoting the independent candidacy of Eliot Cutler of Cape Elizabeth. And now there are signs the Bangor Daily News has also jumped on Cutler's stealth bandwagon. (I imagine a stealth bandwagon only plays ambient music.)
Cutler – a former aide to U.S. Sen. Ed Muskie, a former environmental expert in the Carter administration, a former legal expert on trade with China – is a childhood chum of MaineToday Media CEO Richard Connor. Cutler’s campaign treasurer is Robert C.S. Monks, a Portland developer who’s also a major investor and board member at Connor's company. And Cutler grew up in Bangor, where he was friends with the Warren family, owners of the Bangor Daily.
Connor has been blatant in skewing his newspapers’ coverage in Cutler’s favor. He gave his old pal a full page write-up in a pull-out section promoting the gubernatorial debates sponsored by MaineToday – even though Cutler, as an independent, wasn’t taking part in those events. Connor also included Cutler in a series of profiles of the primary candidates – even though Cutler isn't on the primary ballot.
(There are two other independents in the race: Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott. While Cutler got big play in Connor’s papers when he met the ballot requirements, Moody – who qualified as a candidate even before Cutler – and Scott got zip. MaineToday finally acknowledged Scott’s existence on May 27, with a hastily prepared profile. Moody said he’d talked to a MaineToday reporter, but added, “They’re basically dismissing me as a candidate.")
At least Connor’s and Monks’ attempts to promote their chosen candidate have been easy to spot. The Bangor paper's efforts to elect Cutler seem better disguised.
On May 22, the Bangor Daily announced its Democratic gubernatorial endorsements for:
The paper’s editorial called the Dem field “disappointing,” saying it was composed of “three old-school insiders" and one inexperienced outsider.
The Republicans got slightly kinder treatments. Peter Mills was praised for his bipartisanship and his “keen understanding of the intricacies of state government.” Steve Abbott “offers a fresh approach” thanks to his “moderate views.” Matt Jacobson would make a good commissioner of economic development. Paul LePage “is highly likely to lose in November.”
No mention of frontrunner Les Otten.
Mills and Abbott ended up sort of splitting the endorsement.
Speculation surfaced that the Warrens had engineered this lukewarm backing for the GOP candidates and non-support for the Democrats to clear the way for their old buddy. By diminishing the stature of the eventual Dem nominee, the theory goes, the Bangor paper was making it easier for Cutler, an ex-Democrat, to siphon off disaffected members of his former party.
That sort of bias on the part of allegedly objective news outlets isn't unprecedented. Maine newspapers used to be fiercely partisan, and the Bangor Daily continued that tradition of promoting its friends and smearing its enemies well into the 1990s.
Can these print-media dinosaurs still muster enough influence to sway an election?
Who cares? Steve Jobs gave me a free iPad, and I'm busy watching Tony Kornheiser interview Danica Patrick.
I get e-mail on my iPad, too. Contact me at email@example.com.