Asked for his opinion on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin told a reporter for a national magazine that it was a “good question” – and then waited in silence for an elevator without saying another word.

The exchange, or lack of one, reported by online magazine Politico is typical of Poliquin’s approach when asked about his party’s nominee.

He dodged three questions on Trump when asked by a reporter for Roll Call, who said Poliquin “stared straight ahead and occasionally looked at his phone” before walking away to another news conference.

A statement released by Poliquin’s campaign on the presidential race doesn’t name Trump, but says that of the two candidates for president “only one candidate has been a major job creator.” When asked for clarification, a Poliquin spokesman refused to say Trump’s name.

At a news conference in Orono last month, reporters were told that Poliquin would only be answering questions about one topic – the state’s paper industry. He later walked away when a Morning Sentinel reporter asked him a question about Trump’s position on free trade. Poliquin’s public aversion to all things Trump is reportedly at odds with comments he has made in private.

Androscoggin County Republican Committee Vice Chairman Jason Greene said in an interview Tuesday that Poliquin should make his views on Trump public.


Greene said Poliquin has said he supported Trump at Republican committee meetings, and Greene feels it would be to Poliquin’s advantage to also do so publicly.

“He’s enjoyed great success. I think he’s demonstrated independence with his opposition to (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) and his support for Maine-made products,” Greene said of Poliquin. “I think he should come out and embrace the rest of the Trump agenda.”

And in May, Poliquin was overheard telling a group of conservative activists in Portland that he felt “Trump’s going to win it all,” and that he would work with him to implement policy, according to a leaked audiotape recording published in the Bangor Daily News by blogger Mike Tipping.

The day after Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, also a Republican, denounced Trump’s nomination in an op-ed for The Washington Post, Poliquin again refused Tuesday to comment on Trump – or speak his name.

“The Maine media is obsessed with the presidential race,” Michael Byerly, a Poliquin campaign spokesman said in an email. “Congressman Bruce Poliquin is obsessed with curbing the opioid epidemic, creating jobs, growing the economy and fighting terrorism.”



Byerly would not comment further when asked why Poliquin can’t speak about the presidential race while also working on the issues referenced in the email.

Poliquin’s avoidance of all things Trump is raising eyebrows.

“He has a right to have not made up his mind yet, but I’m more skeptical about the ‘too busy’ part,” James Melcher, a professor of political science at the University of Maine at Farmington, said Tuesday.

Poliquin’s opponent, Democrat Emily Cain took a harder line. She called Poliquin’s statement that he is working on other issues “as much of an excuse as anything.”

“Senator Collins’ refusal to back Donald Trump has blown the lid off of Congressman Poliquin’s strategy of playing both sides,” Cain said in a statement Tuesday morning. “We deserve honest leadership.” Cain has endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for president.

Poliquin’s 2nd District seat is among several that Democrats have targeted nationally this election cycle. The 2nd District also could be targeted by Trump as a place he could pick up one of the state’s four electoral votes. A recent Maine Sunday Telegram poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows Trump with a 1 percentage point lead over Clinton among likely voters in the 2nd District.


The poll also shows this year’s race between Cain and Poliquin to be virtually tied, with Poliquin at 41 percent among likely voters, Cain at 40 percent and 12 percent undecided. In 2014, Poliquin defeated Cain by 5 percentage points in a three-way race.

In The Washington Post op-ed Monday, Collins criticized Trump for his recent attack on the parents of a U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq, his bias against a Mexican-American federal judge and mocking a reporter with disabilities and said that he “lacks the temperament, self-discipline and judgment to be president.”


Melcher said it’s reasonable for Poliquin to remain undecided on whether he will support Trump, but at the same time it’s also reasonable for voters to want to know what he thinks of the candidate.

“In (Poliquin’s) defense, this is a complicated decision because of all the baggage Trump has, but he has to have been thinking about this,” Melcher said.

Melcher said it’s not surprising that Collins, a moderate Republican who has expressed previous concerns over Trump’s nomination, was among the first prominent Republicans nationally to say outright that she will not vote for her party’s nominee.


In Maine, Sen. Roger Katz was the highest profile Republican in state politics to say he will not support Trump, calling the candidate “not fit to be president” last week in an op-ed in the Press Herald.

Poliquin served as state treasurer under Gov. Paul LePage before he ran for Congress. The two also share political adviser Brent Littlefield, who would not comment Tuesday when asked about Greene’s claims that Poliquin has privately voiced support for Trump.

LePage has endorsed Trump and appeared beside him at two campaign rallies in the state, including Thursday, when the presidential nominee singled out Maine’s Somali immigrant population, linking them to an increase in crime in the state, a claim refuted by the police chiefs in Maine’s two largest cities.

Byerly would not address Trump’s comments on Somali immigrants Tuesday and also refused to comment directly on them last week when asked by the Portland Press Herald, saying instead that “the congressman is not participating in the day-to-day media carnival surrounding the presidential campaign.”

He also declined to comment to the Portland Press Herald last month after a reporter saw him leave the scene of a meeting between Trump and Republican members of Congress, and has declined to comment on Trump’s official nomination at the Republican National Convention.


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