Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

Maine’s gubernatorial race has run about as expected. As expected, it is primarily a referendum on the last four years of governance. As expected, it has remained a three way race even though one persistent contender still lags behind. Expectations of that familiar dark horse bolting ahead in the final stretch doesn’t seem likely, but strong enough to hedge any sure bets as to the final victor.

The greatest surprise in the contest occurred in the first televised debate, coming out of the blue as all great upsets do. The second greatest surprise was that it was essentially ignored. Eliot “The Spoiler” Cutler, was asked if he had indeed been offered the Democratic slot this time around, before the party wooed their secret weapon home from Washington. Cutler’s response, as all candidates exchanged furtive glances, was “Yes.”

Resonating so clearly yet so quietly that one seemed to momentarily loose all hearing, that bombshell exploded while all three remained standing and quickly moved on to fielding another ball in play.

An OMG reaction should have gone viral in the following news cycle, one of those blood in the water gifts to the media. Yet, I couldn’t find any mention of it immediately afterwards, or the next day, or the next evening. No shock wave. No legs.

Bewildered, I wondered if Mike Michaud is divinely chosen to take the Blaine House, or that this only confirmed a media bias which would still be openly relishing a LePage embarrassment. First, Michaud’s revelation regarding sexual orientation enjoyed almost immediate disinterest, a realization that, in Maine, that dog no longer hunts. Then, his “evolution” towards more sound Democratic stands on women’s rights, gay rights and gun rights also failed to gain traction as a media liability. “I like Mike” seemed a self fulfilling branding, perfectly married to a “Anybody but LePage” constituency.

The other “Anybody”, Eliot Cutler, could only look on from the sidelines, spend more of his own money, and hope his stars would eventually align. Slowly, that has been happening as his campaign learning curve lightened his demeanor and made his smile as natural as Michaud’s. Still, Michaud’s and Cutler’s plans for governance are so dovetailed that some very real differences seem small when weighed against the all too familiar and diametrically opposite playbook of Governor LePage.

Finally, against the “no-show” theatrics of LePage and Michaud, an actual exchange on issues between the three allowed direct comparisons. In the debates, Eliot Cutler, despite lingering likability issues, demonstrated far more capability in displaying a command of leadership. He not only has fresh ideas, but a clear ability to forcefully communicate them. LePage and Michaud performances raised inarticulateness to new heights.

Campaigns rarely have direct fulfillment of promises once achieving victory. They are a candidate’s dance card and once in office sound bites aren’t always part of the new script. The most assurance a voter can gain from any race is in getting a glimpse of how capable their selection will be in managing adversity and opportunity, in dealing with opposing viewpoints and embracing better ones. This has always been the crux of politics, the lost art of compromise to further the common good.

LePage has had four years to emphasize that he is uncompromising in refusing to compromise.

Like Susan Collins, Michaud’s strongest suit is that he can reach across the aisle and achieve bi-partisan consensus. Cutler has no public track record in this regard, until his admission, during that first televised debate, of a Democrat overture to join their ticket.

Contrary to Democrat calls of “Spoiler,” the losing party in the last gubernatorial go-round apparently acknowledged Cutler’s far more formidable showing in a race that would have been his if a trailing Libby Mitchell had chosen to bow out, disallowing Paul LePage his victory without a majority.

Cutler obviously turned down the Democrats’ invitation to what then would be a fairly assured twoopponent cakewalk in ousting Maine’s most unpopular governor ever. For whatever reasons, Cutler chose to again go it alone, independently seeking Maine’s top leadership position. Taking the Dems up on their offer would have been a compromise, but certainly, by light of his and Michaud’s near-mirrored positions on basic strategies, he wasn’t being asked to wander very far from his own game plan, only back to what have been his Muskie mentored political roots.

Maybe that is why a first-choice courtship from his Democratic opponent’s own party wasn’t utilized by Cutler’s campaign to paint Michaud as a second-run alternative. Because, Cutler clearly chose not to forgo the crapshoot of another three-way race. That gamble may well be highly principled and admirable, but it also has the appearance of someone perhaps too independent – as recklessly independent as Governor LePage, who the majority of Mainers would like to see replaced with someone more willing to bend towards a consensus of where Maine should be heading.

Unless Maine is to continue being politically deadlocked under LePage, it’s time for some voters to make their own compromise.

———

Gary Anderson lives in Bath.


Comments are not available on this story.