PORTLAND — When the chairman of the Republican National Committee visited Portland on Friday, he brought his own backdrop.

The 48-state “Fire Pelosi” bus tour made a two-hour stop in Portland, putting on display RNC Chairman Michael Steele and a less-than-subtle message printed across the bus: “Need A Job? Fire Pelosi!”

“Maine is very much in play for us,” Steele said alongside the bus bearing Minnesota plates, the RNC seal and the rallying cry of ousting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “Right now, we’re looking at additional resources that we can bring to bear here, because we believe in the opportunity that Dean (Scontras) has to win his race, that Paul (LePage) has to win his race for governor.”

Steele spoke after attending a luncheon at the Portland Regency Hotel that raised about $50,000 for the Maine Republican Party, according to Rep. Josh Tardy, R-Newport, the House minority leader, who is stepping down because of term limits.

Republicans hope that Pelosi will be stepping down and their party will win back a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The game is changing in Republican races across the country,” Tardy said. “Every day, there’s three or four more races on the Republican side that are becoming more competitive.”

One of those races is in Maine’s 1st Congressional District, where Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree has seen a once-commanding lead over Scontras evaporate into a statistical tie in the most recent independent poll.

Although Scontras rarely passes up a chance to link Pingree with Pelosi, and even parks a “debt truck” festooned with Pelosi’s picture at fairs and other high-visibility places, he steered clear of Steele and the assembled state GOP leadership in Portland.

“It’s great that the chairman came, but right now I’ve got to focus on my game,” said Scontras, who said he had a commitment Friday in York County. “We’ve got to continue to do what we’ve been doing.”

Steele, who also emphasized support for Republican candidates in state legislative races, said Scontras and LePage should continue their campaigning.

“I don’t need them on this bus to prove that they’re worthy of election,” said Steele, a former lieutenant governor in Maryland.

“This bus is less about the candidates and more about our activists, our volunteers. We have over 160,000 volunteers around the country who have made over 31 million voter contacts since January. That’s what this bus is about.”

The bus tour began in mid-September with a goal of visiting 100 cities and 48 states before Election Day.

It arrived in Maine after stops in Pennsylvania and New York, and was scheduled to make two stops Friday in New Hampshire, with Massachusetts and Rhode Island to follow.

Pingree said in an interview Thursday that Pelosi has become a lightning rod in much the same way Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton became “the face of what people want to say they’re against.”

“My experience with Speaker Pelosi,” Pingree said, “is that she’s extremely hardworking and she knows her issues inside and out.”

Pingree also scoffed at Republicans’ charges that she votes in lockstep with the House speaker.

“The Democratic tent is way too diverse and way too raucous,” Pingree said, “to ever have a leader of any one kind that everybody follows every day.”


Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: [email protected]