By Gus Bouchard
Just a couple of weeks before the 2010 gubernatorial election, I correctly predicted that Paul LePage would charge his dimpled butt through the gaping hole left by moderate liberals splitting between Cutler and Mitchell, and land with a thud, jowls rippling, in the Blaine House.
Pundits are largely ignoring the lessons from that election. But not me.
I’ll explain why, but first have a look at an excerpt from my prescient prognostication from two years ago:
“I just got an impolite mailing from the Democratic Party. It painted Cutler as an Earth-raping tree pillager in bed with the oil companies.
“I don’t know if this is true, but I do know it was a pretty weak attempt at a campaign flier.
“To start with, they used a picture of Cutler smiling harmlessly. Granted, they darkened the picture, trying to make him look grainy and foreboding, but they failed to create the impression of a villain eager to spread black viscous slime all over our pristine coastline.
“Most campaign attack ads use rather unflattering photos of the target. They dig around for a picture of him yelling maniacally, picking his nose, or at least frowning. You mean to tell me the Democrats could not find a single picture of Eliot Cutler frowning?
“I saw Cutler at the Common Ground Fair. He was frowning all over the place. He frowned his way from the political action tent all the way over to the lamb-ka-bobs. Where was the Donkey photo sniper?
“I tried to remain close to see if Cutler would notice that a likely voter was standing a few feet away, waiting to be persuaded. But he just kept frowning along, surrounded by a group of young supporters in white Cutler tee-shirts. The supporters were smiling, albeit nervously. I’m not sure they’d ever seen hippies before.
“At any rate, the Democrats don’t really need to worry about the BDN endorsement. Cutler has the campaigning skills of a sea urchin.
“He’s going to lose. And so will Mitchell. They do not have LePage’s edge, the proper outrage and intensity we look for in a candidate we expect to Change Everything.”
Pretty strong analysis, if I do say so myself, especially considering I didn’t even know LePage was running for governor until after he won the primary.
Anyway, here are the relevant lessons from 2010: The Democrats were stunningly incompetent. Cutler, a terrible campaigner with no charisma and plenty of political baggage, still managed to haul in 36% of the vote, almost twice as much as Libby Mitchell and only 2% behind LePage. The edge went to the candidate who convinced voters that he was a maverick who would shake things up.
Fast forward two years: Charlie Summers is no Paul LePage; too vanilla. Cynthia Dill is a younger and more abrasive version of Libby Mitchell. The Democrats still suck at running statewide campaigns. Meanwhile, good luck finding a picture of Angus King frowning. The only way he could be more likable is if we learned that his mild-mannered persona was a cover for his crime-fighting superhero alter ego.
Furthermore, King gets to wear the maverick hat. Every time his opponents criticize his record as governor, they invite him to show how he stood by his principles and led the state in bold new initiatives, without regard to party platforms.
Folks, Super PAC’s will not be an issue in this election. Any money or attention spent on this election is for the next four months will be completely wasted. It is over.