Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Some speculate that as long as Baldacci even considers running for his old job, LePage & Co. will reflexively attack, attack and attack some more.
Others suggest that the ad, early in the electoral cycle as it may be, is simply a device to deepen LePage's donor pool -- hence the "Sign the Petition" prompt that appears in the final frame.
Think about it: LePage's simple message -- "I'm paying off the hospital debt!" -- resonates with any Mainer who's ever felt the relief and satisfaction that comes with closing out a car loan or, better yet, a home mortgage.
Baldacci's rebuttal -- "This is complicated stuff, but I made paying the hospitals my top priority and, over eight years, forked over more millions than LePage ever will!" -- may provide a more honest and accurate account of what actually happened before LePage came along. But try fitting it into an easily digested, 30-second sound bite.
There is, of course, one more explanation for LePage's campaign-style ambush -- one that Baldacci and more than a few Democrats in the Legislature say is as plain as the perpetual scowl on the Big Guy's face: the looming showdown between LePage and the Legislature's Democratic majority over the state's next biennial budget.
"He doesn't want the discussion to be on the budget," said Baldacci. "It's everything else but the budget. And that budget's going to shift $400 million onto property taxpayers, it's going to cut and eliminate General Assistance, it's going to put pressure on education and teachers and teacher retirement and pensions. And I think those are the real issues that need to be discussed."
Indeed. Yet even with the next gubernatorial election 19 long months away, it's no longer a matter of when the gloves will come off. This, ladies and gentlemen, will be a bare-knuckle fight from the get-go.
Baldacci has made it no secret he'll readily step aside should U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud decide to give up his 2nd District congressional seat and take his own run at LePage. (Michaud and LePage got into a tussle of their own last week over the possible expansion of MaineCare under the Affordable Care Act.)
Still, with or without Baldacci in the ring, this much is clear: The Blaine House Club's no-fighting policy is hereby suspended until further notice.
"I guess we have to develop thicker skins," Baldacci said. "But we also need to stand up and, like Paul Harvey used to say, tell the rest of the story."
It's about time.
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: