The gubernatorial candidates can cancel all remaining campaign appearances. The debate organizers can forget about renting halls and setting up public-address systems. The state’s television stations can kiss that lucrative last-minute political advertising goodbye. And pundits such as myself can find something else to blather on about for the next five weeks (I’m thinking gardening tips, foliage reports and the first chapter of my memoir titled “My Night of Lust With Lady Gaga and Republican State Chairman Charlie Webster”).
Because this race is done.
GOP nominee Paul LePage is going to be the next governor of Maine.
Not because LePage is the best candidate. In this contest, there is no best candidate (although there’s a heated battle for worst).
Not because LePage has run a good campaign (good campaigns don’t let their candidates swear at reporters, lie repeatedly and ineptly, change positions on a whim and have spouses who live in other states).
And not even because most people want LePage to be governor (he’s not going to receive much more than 40 percent of the vote, even if he avoids all serious blunders between now and Nov. 2 – which is unlikely).
LePage will win because his supporters have made up their minds. They’ve – please take your choice of clichés – drunk the Kool-Aid, followed the other lemmings off the cliff, sent their life savings to a Nigerian prince or bet heavily on the Boston Red Sox to win the 2010 World Series.
As far as they’re concerned, all that negative stuff about their boy is being generated by a conspiracy of liberal politicians, liberal journalists, liberal elitists and… uh… liberals.
No need to pay attention to those trumped-up charges that – if they were leveled at any other politician – would cause this Tea Party-saturated group to overflow with outrage at that swine’s dishonesty, hypocrisy and unfitness to hold public office.
These true believers aren’t going to be persuaded that LePage isn’t the answer to not only all the state’s problems, but also to all their personal issues, ranging from an inability to balance a checkbook to a tendency to be fired for drinking, smoking dope and dozing off while on the job. He’ll make everything – everything! – all right.
That leaves Democrat Libby Mitchell and independents Eliot Cutler, Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott in a difficult position (although not as difficult as the one Lady Gaga, Charlie Webster and I got into). If LePage faced a single opponent, that candidate would have a shot at picking up most of the votes from the 60 percent of the population that thinks LePage is a hot-headed whackjob with a tenuous grasp of the reality.
Well, not if it’s Scott. He’s got whackjob issues of his own. And probably not Moody. His campaign bus seems to have sprung a leak in the political-smarts tank. But Cutler and Mitchell might manage to capture a majority if either were the sole alternative. But that’s not going to happen, so LePage is cruising to victory.
Which, oddly enough, could be bad news for other Republicans.
Take, for example, Jason Levesque. He’s running for Congress in Maine’s 2nd District against incumbent Democrat Mike Michaud. As the GOP candidate, Levesque can probably count on most of the fanatics who turn out for LePage to also put a checkmark next to his name. That means he can expect to pick up about 40 percent of the vote. Which would be great if he were in a five-way race. But he’s not. His only opponent is Michaud, who’s likely to receive the support of the anti-LePage crowd, more or less by default.
As we’ve already seen, that segment constitutes 60 percent of the electorate, so it’s so long, Levesque.
It’s much the same in the state’s 1st District, where Republican Dean Scontras is trying to convince the Tea Partiers that he’s their guy by pretending to be more populist and less partisan than he was in his failed 2008 congressional primary bid. Scontras might be a good enough actor to pull this off with LePage’s constituency, which gets all squishy over nonpartisan populists. But, again, that leaves him with 40 percent of the vote, while first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree pulls in most of the rest.
LePage’s 40-percent ceiling could also have a similar impact on close state Senate and House races, perhaps enough of them to cost Republicans the legislative majorities they believe they’re so close to achieving.
So, like I said before, the gubernatorial election is over. LePage wins. No question.
As for the rest of the candidates with an “R” following their names on the ballot, the outcomes aren’t quite so clear-cut. They can drink more deeply from that questionable cup of tea. Or they can take a shot of something stronger and try to appeal to voters who may be dissatisfied with the way Democrats have run the state, but aren’t buying LePage’s antics.
Because, in reality, it ain’t over till it’s over.
I’m finished. Now, it’s your turn. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.