There is no clearer lesson about the difference between candidates and chief executives than the contrasting images of President Barack Obama and Maine Gov.-elect Paul LePage on Wednesday afternoon.

As a humbled president admitted to the shellacking his party and his policies absorbed at the polls on Tuesday, a confident LePage addressed supporters who gathered at a Waterville automobile dealership to celebrate his victory.

At one point in time, Obama was the recipient of such affection; but two years of slow economic recovery and growing discontent among the American electorate delivered a stunning rebuke on Election Day of the president’s policies and leadership.

LePage, who was buoyed by an amazing life story of self-reliance, business success and a strong fiscal record as mayor of Waterville, was a beneficiary of the country’s unsettled attitude toward the current administration — not just in Washington, but Augusta as well.

NO MANDATE GIVEN

His slim margin of victory did not make a mandate — more citizens voted against him than for him, a regrettable recent trend in Maine gubernatorial races — but his grass-roots support and widespread appeal is now undeniable. He went out and won this race.

Now, however, LePage must make the transition from candidate to office-holder, and it is here that Maine needs its governor-elect to channel the emotions of the campaign into calculated decisions for the betterment of the entire state.

Maine desperately needs it.

The deficit is almost one-sixth the state’s entire budget. Entitlement programs, retiree benefits and infrastructure demands are beyond our ability to fund. The economy is stagnant, yet quite fragile.

Maine must have a steady hand, and a smart plan, guiding its future.

Before the election, we had our doubts about whether LePage was the right choice for governor. His campaign proposals depended too much on fixing Maine’s government by simply doing less, and he lacked concrete details for solving the state’s pressing problems.

This hasn’t changed, which is why we urge LePage to swiftly sharpen his focus. Time cannot be wasted. He has a unique opportunity to pursue his particular agenda with not only support of the voters, but also with Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

For the best interest of Maine, this chance cannot be missed, for these auspicious conditions could be only temporary. Just ask President Obama.

During a news conference on Wednesday, the president deflected question after question about the election results, what they say about his presidency, and how a divided nation now goes forward.

The political wind, once favorable, is now blowing in his face.

LePage, just starting his ascension into the Blaine House, has the political tailwind. He must use it to swiftly put the right people into his administration, sharpen his proposals for the upcoming legislative session and make the transition from the stump to the State House.

SETTING THE TONE

How LePage handles these days before the inauguration will set the tone for his entire administration. After a campaign in which his heated temperament led to questions about his fitness to govern, a cool head and calculating method would now serve him well.

Voters would welcome it. They’ve had enough of the vileness of the campaign season, with vicious attacks substituting for substantive discussions about the critical issues facing this state. With the campaign over, it’s time for solutions.

Congratulations to Paul LePage, Maine’s next governor. We hope for his success, because a governor who can achieve great things in office will put this state on the pathway to future prosperity. We caution, however, that every minute is crucial.

Watching President Obama on Wednesday was a stark reminder.

LePage, just starting his ascension into the Blaine House, has the political tailwind. He must use it to swiftly put the right people into his administration, sharpen his proposals for the upcoming legislative session and make the transition from the stump to the State House. How LePage handles these days before the inauguration will set the tone for his entire administration.