Off Mic Blog: Has LePage's Road Show Had Its Finale?

Oct 7, 2016

Editor’s note: Off Mic is a blog about things you might have missed in Maine politics. It’s a place for those news tidbits that aren’t quite a story, or that were part of story but were hacked out by a thoughtless editor. This is our first post. There will be more.

Leftovers from the notebook while waiting for Donald Trump to compare his 3 a.m. tweet storm to his readiness to defend the country …

Wait, he did that.

Law and order

The Portland Press Herald and University of New Hampshire Survey Center have released new polling data showing answers to a slate of questions about Mainers’ confidence in public and private institutions, such as the courts, military, banks or media outlets. Notably, Mainers have the most faith in the military (73 percent) and police (62 percent). At the other end of the confidence spectrum: Congress (10 percent).

Such results may provide some context about the rhetoric of the presidential race. Republican nominee Donald Trump, the self-described “law and order” candidate, has repeatedly defended police amid increased media scrutiny of police shootings involving black men. In January, he said police “are the most mistreated people in America.” Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has attempted to balance concerns among blacks, a core constituency, with remarks about implicit bias and the reality that the police are among the most trusted institutions by Americans, especially white Americans (58 percent among whites, 29 percent among blacks according to a recent Gallup survey).

Trump has also attempted to play off Americans’ high confidence in the military, but with less than stellar results. He polls well among veterans, but he’s bristled others in the military establishment with comments in which he assailed a Gold Star family and claimed he knew more about ISIS “than generals do.” Such comments, and questions about his temperament, prompted 50 former GOP national security officials to write a letter declaring Trump would put the nation’s security at risk.

While that letter was the subject of many news reports, it’s an open question whether Americans, or Mainers, believed it. After all, the PPH poll put respondents’ confidence in newspapers and TV news at 22 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

About that next Trump visit

You may heard that Trump had planned to make his fourth visit to Maine on Thursday. Well, that was canceled, but he dispatched his son Eric to hit a couple of spots in the 2nd Congressional District.

It’s not entirely clear why Trump pulled the plug on this visit. His campaign apparently told the city that they had “routing issues,” which could be a euphemism for scheduling conflict.

Also, there was some Twitter chatter over the weekend in which Trump supporters talked about his visit as a multistop event that would begin in Portland and continue at another location later in the day.

In any event, Trump ultimately did reschedule to next weekend.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders will be in Bangor Friday to campaign on behalf of Clinton.

Waffling on rankings

Haven’t made up your mind on ranked choice voting? You’re not alone.

The PPH poll shows that while 48 percent of respondents support the ballot initiative that would swap Maine’s plurality-winner voting system for ranked choice voting in legislative, gubernatorial and congressional contests, 23 percent are undecided. That’s a fairly high number with little more than a month left before Election Day, but not surprising given the rarity — and some would say complexity — of ranked choice voting.

Governor’s road show at a dead end?

For over a year, Gov. Paul LePage held public forums on almost a weekly basis. But he hasn’t held one since late August, when he dove headlong into a national controversy with racially charged comments about the race of drug traffickers arrested in Maine. The North Berwick Town Hall was immediately followed by the governor’s decision to leave an obscenity-laced voicemail with state Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook. And after that, LePage told reporters about how he wished he and Gattine could go back in time and have a duel.

Somewhat lost in the ensuing media frenzy is that the governor actually scheduled a town hall meeting in Gattine’s hometown, even inviting the Democrat to debate him on stage. At some point LePage, or his staff, rethought the wisdom of that idea and canceled.

It’s widely predicted that LePage’s conduct will have some electoral consequences for Republican lawmakers, who decided not to officially sanction him. It’s also raised some questions about whether the governor has agreed to hold off on the town halls, at least until after the election. The town halls, after all, have been the source of an assortment of self-inflicted controversies. His communications staff did not respond to questions about whether he would hold another one anytime soon.

Then again, it’s unclear whether the governor’s favorability suffered much from the firestorm. The PPH poll showed a slight increase in his favorability from June, which probably doesn’t qualify as the post-voicemail/duel fantasy/racial bounce, but raises questions about whether his conduct hurt his standing with the Mainers who already like him.

Put down that gummy bear

The group working to defeat the marijuana legalization initiative has posted a pair of commercials on YouTube that play up fears about of the danger to kids and pets.

The ads zero in on an emerging issue in the states that have legalized recreational marijuana: edibles. They look like candy, but the THC-laced cookies, candy bars and gummy bears pack a punch, sending kids who accidentally consume them to the emergency room.

The ad focuses on this danger, showing a dog devouring an assortment of cookies and a small child reaching for a sugary gummy bear.

The actual legalization bill includes language that prohibits manufacturers and retailers from creating marijuana edibles that “look appealing” to, or are addictive to, children. But exactly what that standard is would likely be determined by state regulators if Question 1 passes. And Colorado, which legalized pot in 2014, is currently grappling with ways to make pot brownies look different than Duncan Hines brownies.

Whether the ad will air on television is unclear. So far there’s no record of an ad buy posted in the political files of the local television stations. Also, the latest finance report for the No on 1 PAC shows that one of the ads was donated from the anti-Prop 205 campaign in Arizona. That’s the same Arizona PAC that received $500,000 from a pharmaceutical company that sells the powerful painkiller fentanyl.

Meanwhile, the latest Yes on 1 group is outpacing the No side nearly 26-to-1, according to most recent reports. The legalization PAC has received $1.2 million from the nonprofit New Approach, which Maine Public profiled in early July.