Dreaming is easy. But waking up is hard to do.

Just ask Alan Caron.

Seven months ago, when anything still seemed possible, the independent from Freeport did something unheard of among candidates for major office.

Responding to concerns that he might play the spoiler in Maine’s four-way gubernatorial race, siphoning votes away from the Democrat and thus ushering another Republican into the Blaine House, Caron banged out an op-ed in this newspaper promising to pull his own plug should he fail to electrify the electorate.

“If a candidate clearly cannot win the election by mid-October, they need to put the interests of Maine ahead of themselves and pull out,” he wrote. “No wishy-washy stuff. No arguments that major-party candidates have special privileges. Just do the right thing.”

And so, he continued, “Here’s my pledge to Maine voters: If it is clear by mid-October that I cannot win the election, I will publicly withdraw from the race. Plain and simple.”

It’s now Oct. 28. According to the polling analytics website FiveThirtyEight, both Caron and fellow independent Terry Hayes (who made no such pledge) have a one-tenth of 1 percent chance of winning on Nov. 6.

And yet, when the TV cameras blink on for this evening’s Maine Public debate, Caron will be there, still clinging to a dream that most expected to end a couple of weeks ago.

Friday morning, Caron agreed to answer a few emailed questions about his campaign. The first and most obvious: Why have you not withdrawn as promised?

“My pledge was to assess the race in mid-October and, if I couldn’t win, to withdraw,” he replied. “It was not to withdraw on a specific date.”

This, folks, from the candidate who vowed to refrain from “wishy-washy stuff.” Apparently the problem here isn’t what Caron said quite clearly seven months ago – it’s how all of Maine managed to misinterpret it.

Caron went on to say that he will announce a decision on the future of his campaign in the next few days, at which point “people can judge for themselves whether I’ve fulfilled my pledge.”

He added: “I regret any confusion caused by my March language. My upcoming announcement will contain no such ambiguity.”

Note to Caron: The March statement could not have been clearer. It’s your failure to follow through on it that’s causing all the confusion and ambiguity.

My second question noted that Caron’s campaign Facebook page is currently a five-alarm fire. Some critics have taken to posting his pledge, over and over, beneath anything the campaign puts out. Under one such invocation, another poster wrote, “What happened to THAT guy?”

Now that the chatter about his yet-to-be-fulfilled pledge appears to be drowning out his political messaging, I asked, “Is anyone listening anymore?”

Responded Caron, “Facebook is a small part of a campaign and the comments there are almost always dominated by political activists.”

Conversely, he argued, the largest campaign audiences come with the televised debates – tonight’s will be the sixth – that began on Oct. 17.

“I am participating in those debates to spread ideas as far as I can, while I can,” Caron said. “The response to those debates has been warm and overwhelmingly positive, particularly among young people.”

Fair enough. But the problem with Caron’s candidacy isn’t his lack of ideas – in fact, his thoughts on everything from the economy and education to energy and broadband expansion have often eclipsed the opposition both in their clarity and their detail.

Rather, the dilemma is that Caron the candidate has failed to gain traction with more than 2 or 3 percent of Maine voters, according to the polls.

As one woman told Caron on Facebook, “You are an honorable man and if the scales were tipped your way I would certainly choose you but that’s not what’s happening.”

I asked Caron on Friday why he thinks he hasn’t caught on more with voters.

Because, he said, this is a “ferociously partisan year” and people are basing their vote not on what they want, but on what they fear.

“Beyond that, the road of an independent is a difficult one,” he said. “The decks are steeply tilted to the two parties. Party nominees can raise twice as much money from an individual as independents can. Independents are generally ignored by the press during the spring primaries. Then they’re ignored in the summer after post-primary polls predictably show the party candidates in the lead.”

Back we go to that March manifesto, in which Caron vowed to make “no arguments that major-party candidates have special privileges.” Yet, with Election Day just around the corner, that’s exactly what he’s now doing.

Maine Political Report



The real irony here is that the dreaded spoiler label, which Caron has long pinned on Democrat Libby Mitchell in the 2010 gubernatorial election and, four years later, on independent Eliot Cutler, may not even be a factor in this election.

FiveThirtyEight currently gives Democrat Janet Mills an 82.7 percent chance of winning nine days from now, compared to just a 17.3 percent chance for Republican Shawn Moody.

In fact, if there is a spoiler effect in this race, it could well be the Republican and unenrolled voters who migrate away from Moody and toward independent Hayes.

Meaning Caron’s dream of becoming Maine’s next chief executive, in the harsh light of Nov. 7, will likely be reduced to statistical insignificance.

His credibility, on the other hand, erodes with each day he remains in the race.

Which brings us to my last question for the independent who would be governor:

“What do you know now as a gubernatorial candidate that you didn’t know when you began your campaign?”

Replied Caron, “I’ll be ready to talk to you about that when the campaign is over.”

Here’s a suggestion: When you’re wrapped in a dream that’s too good to be true, don’t ignore your wake-up call.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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