So, what do you call a candidate who gets 48 percent of the vote?

Why, “governor,” of course.

And it probably would have been more than 50 percent without the presence of that spoiler, Eliot Cutler, whose final 8 percent total easily could have deducted 2 percent or more from Gov. LePage’s decisive margin of victory.

Democrats ran a campaign marked with an extraordinarily high level of personal vilification against LePage, and it says something good about Mainers that more than half of them rejected the candidate of the party that resorted to it.

I’m tempted to offer my services without charge to all Prius or Forester owners who would like the now-obsolete “61%” sticker removed from their cars. I have a blowtorch that should do the job nicely.

But enough glee. It’s back to the future:

The state’s papers and airwaves are replete with statements about how the governor (whom few in the media wanted back in the Blaine House) must now govern.

Their view is that “progress” is only possible by showing due respect for the needs of the state as filtered through the desires of the people who didn’t win.

Of course, even the purest partisan (and I am not all that pure – why, I even voted for a Democrat this time around. Of course, he lost …) has to see that this time, the commentators have a point, even if it is a limited one.

A Democratic majority in the Maine House still has to be wooed – and where possible, won – by the governor and the new Republican leadership in the state Senate .

As Democrats retain a majority in the Legislature as a whole, they will still choose influential constitutional officers – attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.

Perhaps Democrats could indicate their oft-expressed openness to compromise by refraining from awarding those posts to longtime partisans, instead sharing the spoils with the majority as a gesture of humility and good will.

But the larger agenda-setting baton has passed to the Republicans, and they should understand that they did not win office by accident.

More than in most elections, this was indeed a contest of ideas. On one side was the idea of a burgeoning state government whose goal should be to make dependents of as many people as possible (yes, we know, to “help” them). It lost, and lost badly.

The view that prevailed was the clearly and directly expressed view of Maine’s principal leader that the goal of decent, honest government is to treat the people as responsible citizens who, barring disability or handicap, are best served by expanding their own ability to help themselves.

Where should this agenda begin? With taxes.

Legislators should immediately reopen the state’s income tax system to further reform. While a continuation of the tax-reduction movement that was begun in the first two years of Gov. LePage’s first term (a nice phrase, that) would be worthwhile, Maine could use a flat tax, in which people could figure out their taxes on a postcard, as it would be a simple percentage of their earnings.

But LePage made noises about doing away with the income tax altogether, and I hope he hasn’t given up on that.

Also, lawmakers could immediately ditch the 10 percent sales tax hike that Democrats forced on the state last session. If there’s one message that voters sent, it is that the time for tax hikes of any type is over.

How do we make up the inevitable “shortfall in revenues”? In the short term, cut spending, just like all the people who have lost their jobs or had their hours slashed because of Barack Obama’s economy have had to do.

And in the longer term, build a solid, productive economy based on limited regulation, low taxes and the removal of barriers to entry-level business and job creation. For starters, bring back the ombudsman who worked to expedite business proposals through the bureaucracy.

Democrats have another problem, one familiar to a team manager who looks at his bench in the final innings and sees two rookies and a bat boy grinning hopefully back at him.

Michael Michaud was arguably the Democrats’ strongest gubernatorial candidate, and he is now headed for the showers.

And the bright prospect from a Triple A stint in the Legislature, Emily Cain, likewise offered up a fastball straight down the middle to former state treasurer Bruce Poliquin, who knocked it over the farthest bleachers.

Will U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree decide four years from now to take on whichever rising Republican who seeks the governor’s job? Well, she could have this year, against what her party thought was an easy target, and declined – a wise decision on her part, apparently.

Maine the “blue state” has taken on a decidedly purple cast. We’re the better for it.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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