March 31, 2013

Michael Cuzzi: Wanting to be re-elected drives LePage's reversals

The governor's recent about-faces show he gets that Maine voters prefer cooperation.

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Michael Cuzzi is a former campaign aide to President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and former U.S. Rep. Tom Allen. He manages the Portland office of VOX Global, a strategic communications and public affairs firm.

To most Mainers, his veto threat sounded more like a bully's schoolyard taunt than thoughtful or responsible leadership. It reinforced the worst perceptions of the governor, narrowing opportunities to broaden his electoral appeal.

What's more, had he followed through, the governor would have owned the ensuing gridlock and thereby wagered all of his political capital -- and likely his political career -- on an issue that, while important, is unlikely to drive voting behavior next fall.

Many of those close to the governor contend he is a shrewd negotiator and savvy businessman, angling for the greatest possible leverage to extract maximum concessions from his political opponents.

They claim the governor's past bluster on bonding, Medicaid expansion and hospital debt was simply a clever and calculated attempt to get his political opponents to move closer to his position before cutting a deal.

That's a comforting yarn for the governor's devotees, but don't believe the hype.

For politicians -- even those who shun the term -- the threat of political mortality is a powerful motivator.

The governor is taking his foot off the ideological accelerator to better position himself for re-election in a state that still values statesmanlike collaboration and moderation over his past brand of divisiveness and ideological rigidity.


Michael Cuzzi can be reached at and on Twitter @CuzziMJ.


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