Wednesday February 13, 2013 | 12:24 PM

WASHINGTON – The State of the Union is often as much about spectacle and tradition as it is about the substance of the president’s comments.

And so, here are a few Maine-related observations of the more unsubstantial sort from last night:

Ups and downs: Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King sat together but they didn’t always stand together. As veteran SOTU watchers know, members of Congress show their enthusiasm or lack thereof for a president’s specific remarks by either standing to applaud or staying seated.

Collins, a Republican, and the independent King rose together in response to the president’s remarks on numerous occasions, such as when he talked about fixing crumbling bridges and when he called for immigration reforms to help keep highly skilled, foreign-born entrepreneurs and engineers in the U.S.

But the pair split (King rising with most Democrats and Collins staying seated with most Republicans, but still applauding) when Obama talked about addressing climate change, drawing down combat troops from Afghanistan and hinted at tax hikes for the wealthy and businesses that outsource jobs.

Neither of them stood when Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour.

No Label but a pin: U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud displayed his support for the group non-partisan No Labels by sporting an orange pin showing he is a member of the organization’s “problem solvers” group in Congress. Michaud and the roughly 40 other Democrats, Republicans and independents who have affiliated themselves with No Label’s “problem solvers” have pledged to work across the aisle to build trust and address major issues.

Product placement: Poland Spring got a major but unanticipated plug when Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida awkwardly reached for a bottle of the Maine-sourced water during the official Republican response to Obama’s speech. He then tweeted a close-up picture of the bottle after the grab become a hot topic.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the video.


Unfortunately, the company has taken some hits since then for not capitalizing on the impromptu plug in social media.

Meet and greet: Several high-ranking Obama administration officials stopped by to shake hands or chat with King and Collins prior to the speech thanks to the senators’ seats near the front.

They were visited by, among others, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (Collins served on Senate Armed Services for years and now King does) as well as Attorney General Eric Holder. Collins, meanwhile, was seated directly behind United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, with whom she had made headlines late last year over Rice’s statements regarding the attacks on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya. Rice was a potential nominee for Secretary of State at the time.


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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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