By John Frary
The first post-election meeting of the Republican State Committee fairly sparkled with good cheer. Not every hope had been realized, but every fear had been averted. The Republicans still held the Maine Senate majority and managed to pick up a few House seats. Some Republicans (e.g., me) may remain wary of President Trump, but there was no space for skepticism in Augusta’s Governor’s Mansion on that day. There was plenty of space for gloating at the Democrats’ nationwide discomfort.
Moral philosophers agree that Schadenfreude is a mean, sadistic emotion. Republicans agree that moral philosophers are no fun.
Party chairman Rick Bennett and committee executive director Jason Savage both stressed that Rep. Poliquin’s re-election, Trump’s second congressional district victory, and the legislative results combined to make Maine a “battleground state.” This label is important because it may encourage the flow of national funds to support the party’s efforts in future elections. Lisa Keim’s election to the senate was greeted with special enthusiasm. A Republican victory in Rumford is a startling novelty. For my own part, I was delighted. I worked (a little) on her previous campaign and invested some money this time around.
The committee members found some referendum results disappointing but that didn’t dampen the general contentment. Everyone took pleasure in Bloomburg’s futile investment in gun control. No one seemed to think the ranked-choice voting passage was consequential. Many believed that Maine’s constitution would nullify it in any case.
David Clough, Maine director for the National Federation of Independent Business, was welcomed as a guest. He had little to say about the minimum wage question but presented his organization’s case against the tax increase passed by referendum. More to the point, he argued that a recount may yet reverse the outcome. Committee members received petition forms and instructions for getting them to the Secretary of State in order to set a recount in motion.
The prize exhibit for the convention was Rep. Bruce Poliquin. He had annoyed the Compulsive Obsessive Trumpists during his campaign by declining to swear undying fidelity to their hero. He was ready with an explanation for his dodging and weaving. The Cain campaign demanded that he commit and declare. Maine’s media demanded the same. He did not chose to let the hostiles dictate the substance of his campaign. He preferred to talk about his issues (e.g., legislation benefitting New Balance shoes, oh yeah). In sum, he reckoned President Trump would have more use for his vote in Congress than his endorsement in the campaign. He believed his tactical decision was vindicated since his vote ran ahead of The Donald’s in the Second District. This seemed to satisfy everyone present.
Speaking on political tactics adapted to Maine, Bruce hammered home the lesson that it’s impossible to win elections without support from the “Independents.” It follows that the party must always choose “the most conservative feasible candidate.” That is to say, relentless ideologues are not usually feasible. He underscored his point by mentioning some candidates he supported for office, even while criticizing them on specific positions important to their districts.
He drove the point home by citing Howie Carr’s support for his own election, not withstanding their disagreements on some specific stands.
Moving on to national business the hero of the hour predicted that Obamacare was doomed; that the GOP majority leader, McConnell, will resort to Harry’s Reid’s method for negating a filibuster in order to insure this. He seemed to believe that President Trump was capable of showing up in Kentucky to denounce McConnell by name if he stalled on the issue.
The campaign behind him he stood before the State Committee as a virtual Co-Trumpist himself, a man with high hopes for the Trump Administration. He assured us that the House policy people and the president-elect were getting along like a bunch of sailors on shore leave. He made the point that policy originates in the House of Representatives, not the Senate.
As to his own plans, Rep. Poliquin disclaimed any interest in committee chairmanship. He announced that he plans to concentrate on serving the Second District and holding on to its seat for the Republican Party.
John Frary of Farmington is a former candidate for U.S. Congress, a retired history professor, an Emeritus Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United, a Maine Citizen’s Coalition Board member, and publisher of FraryHomeCompanion.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.