Gov. LePage vetoed 48 bills this past legislative session, bringing his grand total to a history-making 182 since his election in 2010.

At the Republican state convention last week, the governor and Republican leaders wore that dubious distinction as a point of pride and blamed the Democratically controlled legislature for the veto spree. “Democrats rammed many extreme liberal bills through the Legislature on strict party lines,” said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette, “so they can’t be surprised when this reform-minded governor vetoes them.” Nice spin. But the claim doesn’t hold water.

In fact, 66 percent of the vetoed bills this session enjoyed the bipartisan support of two-thirds or more of legislators in either the House or Senate. That’s hardly indicative of an extremist legislative majority.

Rather, the governor’s veto spree reflects a leader preferring to rule by fiat, purposefully disengaged from the hard work, long hours and principled legislative compromise that might otherwise have avoided the vetoes in the first place.

Perhaps that’s why – after the governor abandoned the appropriations process entirely – legislators overwhelmingly overrode his budget veto Thursday by 134-12 in the House and 35-0 in the Senate.

Or why they overrode vetoed bills that expand health insurance coverage for children with autism spectrum disorder; stiffen penalties for repeat drunk drivers; and a bond to increase state spending for small-business loan programs. In total, legislators overrode 14 of the governor’s 48 vetoes.

ON TO THE CAMPAIGN

The legislative session yielded plenty of fiery rhetoric, but it didn’t provide any clear political winners or losers. Instead, both parties took their shots and their lumps in largely equal measure.

What we did see, however, is a preview of the issues likely to dominate the 2014 legislative and gubernatorial campaigns.

Democrats will campaign aggressively on the 70,000 Mainers still without access to health insurance after the governor and Republican legislators scuttled five separate attempts to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

That obstinacy will underpin a narrative about Gov. LePage’s bluster and failure to lead, frequently abetted by Republican legislators. Democrats will point to failures to stimulate the economy and grow jobs through widely popular bond issues, bungled management of Health and Human Service programs, attempts to gut municipal revenue sharing and Maine’s continued sluggish economic recovery.

Republicans will campaign on their unsuccessful efforts to reform a welfare system they perceive as riddled with fraud, abuse and excess. They will couple this with a business and economic progress narrative centered on the governor’s tax cuts, a shrinking unemployment figure and “business-friendly” government reforms.

Republicans will couch all of these issues within the context of a Democratic party they see as shackled by “liberal special interests” and desperate to protect the status quo at the expense of everyday Mainers.

For his part, Cutler will use the inter-party sniping to make the case that the political parties and their standard bearers represent the same old policies and rhetoric that continue to hold Maine’s growth and progress at bay.

WHO’S PAYING ATTENTION?

In addition to the coverage of the governor’s vetoes and the legislature’s final days, there’s also been considerable reporting and analysis on last week’s gubernatorial campaign finance reports and another public poll from Rasmussen.

While the minutiae of the reports and polling data are lost on everyday voters, they’re used by the campaigns to reinforce a preferred narrative, take shots at rivals and as a fundraising tool.

For Team Michaud, the latest financial and polling numbers presented an ideal package to push their narrative. Rasmussen showed the race deadlocked at 40 percent for Michaud and 40 percent for LePage, with Cutler a distant third at 14 percent . Meanwhile, Michaud’s fundraising showed him dominating the money contest, outpacing his opponents in the filing period’s totals, cash on hand and dollars raised to date.

For Michaud, that translates into an affirmation that this is a close two-person race with him as the clear alternative to LePage .That kind of message not only helps motivate Michaud’s in-state base and gives pause to local Cutler backers, it reassures national third-party groups who seek confirmation that Michaud possesses the organization and resources to compete (and win) prior to investing in the campaign.

Of course, as potentially appealing and accurate as Michaud’s narrative may be, it’s also worth remembering that Election Day remains seven months off, the majority of the electorate is unengaged and Cutler has proven perfectly willing to exploit his own deep pocket to remain viable in the hopes of gaining traction as voters tune in post-Labor Day.

Right now that seems like a stretch, but in politics anything is possible.

Michael Cuzzi is a former campaign aide to President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and former Rep. Tom Allen. He manages the Portland office of VOX Global, a strategic communications and public affairs firm based in Washington. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @CuzziMJ.