The universe is constantly in flux. Seeds sprout, trees grow tall and then die, making way for new life.
Mountains crumble, oceans recede and stars burn out. Nothing is permanent.
Except Paul LePage’s poll numbers. They never change.
Ever since the then-mayor of Waterville shocked the Republican establishment in 2010, winning a seven-way primary handily with 37 percent of the vote, a pattern has emerged. In July that year, a Rasmussen poll put his popularity at 39 percent. On Election Day 2010, his vote total was 38 percent. Last November, a PanAtlantic SMS poll put him at 36 percent.
An internal poll made public by Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign this week had their candidate in the lead with 39 percent, independent Eliot Cutler with 16 and LePage at 35.
It may be too early in the race to look at polls as predictors of the next election – especially internal polls released by campaigns. But it’s not too soon to see the consistency of the governor’s support. If the trend line were a tabletop, a marble wouldn’t roll on it. If it were the image on a heart monitor, the patient would be dead.
But since the governor is running in a three-way race, nearly 40 percent of the vote would be plenty to hold on to the Blaine House for another four years. As long as his opponents split the rest of the vote, he doesn’t have to win over any new supporters to stay in office.
This week, we’re getting a great view of the governor’s strategy to get his voters to turn up on Election Day by keeping some of the people happy all of the time.
On Monday, the governor rolled out a business development plan, the “Open for Business Zones,” which would suspend taxes and labor laws for a big company looking to relocate while also subsidizing its energy costs.
The goal is to make Maine competitive with the “right-to-work” states in the South, which, he says, have seen the most job growth. The fact that they have also seen the highest poverty, teenage pregnancy and obesity rates while lagging in economic mobility and people with health insurance does not seem to matter.
When looking to the South, somehow the governor missed another business development model closer to home. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has launched an even more ambitious program, promising 10 years of no taxes (including corporate, income, sales and property taxes) on businesses and their employees if the companies meet certain requirements.
To be eligible, companies have to be creating jobs in high-tech and advanced manufacturing fields, and they have to locate on a campus of the state’s public or private universities. The idea is to leverage the state’s research and development capacity to create high-paying jobs, not capitalize on a workforce with low pay and low skills.
Would LePage’s plan work? There’s no way we’ll ever know. LePage couldn’t get a right-to-work law passed when his party controlled the Legislature, so bringing it up before the more union-friendly Democratic-controlled House and Senate, even in a watered-down form, is more about jump-starting an ad campaign than about attracting new industry. And hitting hot buttons like tax rates and unions keeps his people happy.
There are other ways that the governor is already looking to November. He has come out strongly against drug dealers and welfare cheats, without having much to say about addiction or poverty.
He wants to go out on a limb and ask voters in a nonbinding referendum if they would like to see a $100 million cut in taxes and spending (never mind what spending he means). If “yes,” he’d take it under advisement.
If LePage were still a mayor or a talk radio caller, a referendum might make sense. But since he’s the governor and can submit any budget he wants, this is just more transparent campaigning.
It’s hard to imagine what LePage could do to lose that solid 38 percent of the electorate (or 37, or 36, or 40) that has stayed with him for so long. It’s equally hard, however, to imagine many people moving over to his column.
As long as Michaud and Eliot Cutler are splitting the vote, this is a winning strategy for the governor. But the same wasn’t true for Republican lawmakers who had to go before the voters in two-way races in 2012 and lost enough seats to lose control of both the House and Senate.
This year they can expect again to be described as rubber stamps for the governor.
More of them may find that the governor’s support is rock-solid, but a rock is not what helps when you are trying to stay afloat.
Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or at: [email protected]