As the political season heats up, Maine politics will play a bigger role in the Telegram’s Insight section.
This space, in print and online, will be filled with analysis from Mike Cuzzi and Dan Demeritt, two Maine political professionals who will share what they have learned from years of working on campaigns in each of the major parties.
The centerpiece will be a weekly column, but Cuzzi and Demeritt will be discussing political developments on social media all week and using the questions you pose on the Press Herald Facebook page and twitter.com (or even in an old-fashioned letters to the editor) as the jumping off point for their analysis.
Before the conversation gets started, here are your guides:
When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, the whole world was watching. But when the then-senator made his first visit to New Hampshire in 2006, not many people were paying attention.
One who was on the scene was Cuzzi, who started the future president’s New Hampshire campaign in his Manchester apartment. Cuzzi became the campaign’s state political director and deputy state director, and earned himself the nickname “The Cooler” from Obama, who thought Cuzzi was overly critical of his performance. (Considering that Obama lost New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton, maybe he should have listened.)
Cuzzi, 35, is a Massachusetts native who, when not working on campaigns, has lived mostly in Maine since graduating from Colby College in 1998. He worked on Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential race and former Rep. Tom Allen’s 2006 congressional campaign. He now serves as a senior vice president of VOX Global, a Washington, D.C., based public affairs firm with an office in Portland.
Everyone remembers when Gov. LePage told the NAACP that “they can kiss my butt.” But less remembered is what he said next. Looking over his shoulder, a much-amused governor growled, “Aww, now I got Dan all upset.”
That was Demeritt, who for seven months had the unenviable role of communications director for a governor who tends to say too much.
Demeritt came on board the LePage campaign in the fall of 2010 after the candidate had made a series of explosive statements and kept the campaign message in line through the November election.
A graduate of Colby College in 1994, Demeritt has worked on a string of local and statewide races, including a stint as the political director for Susan Collins’ 1996 U.S. Senate campaign.
He left the LePage administration last year after setbacks in his private real estate and restaurant businesses proved to be a distraction. He has since started his own PR and political consulting business. He most recently worked for Attorney General William Schneider’s campaign for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.
Working as they have for two different parties, it’s easy to imagine that these two operatives would never have met. But Maine is a small state.
Cuzzi’s wife, Heather, and Martha Demeritt have been best friends since college and over the years the two husbands have found themselves talking politics at kids’ birthdays and holiday get-togethers.
Neither expects this column to be an ideological slug fest, at least not often.
“Some people get up every day and think that Democrats are bad because of the way they register, but I have never felt that way,” Demeritt said. “I have spent too much time trying to sell pizza to Democrats to have that kind of animosity.”
Cuzzi and Demeritt are political technicians, who can tell us what the organizations won’t about how message, money and personalities come together to create a campaign.
That should be interesting and educational, and for those of us who follow this stuff, it should also be a lot of fun.
Cuzzi and Demeritt invite you to follow them on twitter.com — @CuzziMJ and @demerittdan — and offer questions you want them to tackle in their first column on June 25.
Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481, or: