Hard to believe it’s October already.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

It’s getting colder, the leaves are turning and falling and there’s only one more month until the ugly political commercials are off the air, the slanted coverage of President Trump’s every action is gone and the political left’s four-year temper tantrum is mercifully over. One can only hope.

We’ll probably have the requisite October surprise – or maybe two or three surprises seeing it’s 2020, the worst year in recent memory – but the overarching themes of this campaign season are already in plain view. And, strangely enough, they all start with the letter P.

The 16th letter of the alphabet has been practically everywhere this year, especially in Maine politics. From Sen. Susan Collins’ Paycheck Protection Program and a campaign commercial denigrating her Democrat challenger Sara Gideon as a Pretty Pathetic Politician, the letter P is experiencing a peak of popularity. Sesame Street’s letter sponsors would be proud.

One important P impacting the upcoming races is, of course, the pandemic. It’s funny how Republicans saw the importance early on of reopening businesses and schools while Democrats seemed happy to “stay safe at home” and let civilization crumble around them.

Democrat presidential candidate Joe “Hidin” Biden is “staying safe” in his basement while the tireless and fearless President Trump rallies in a different city each night. They each embody different ways to handle a crisis – facing it head-on or withdrawing from it – and it’ll be interesting to see how voters respond.

Personality, another P, is also playing a big role. Campaign 2020 is all about Trump, both the presidential race and down-ticket contests.

Some say Trump’s New Yorker city slicker persona is off-putting. But if that were true, why do so many rural Americans admire him? Trump’s personality will be analyzed by historians long after we’re all dead, and 2020 is a test of his complex personality’s ability to persuade.

Policy, yet another P, is also in play this fall.

Of course, even opponents have to admit Trump’s policies have been effective. He’s brought peace agreements to the Middle East, bulked up military spending, nominated Constitution-upholding Supreme Court justices, eliminated ISIS, allowed no new wars, passed tax cuts that benefit everyone from the wealthy to the working stiff and created the greatest American economy ever.

And he did it all while fighting off unending negativity by the mainstream media as well as lies about Russian collusion and impeachment proceedings by jealous Democrats.

Many don’t like Trump because of his reality-show background and won’t vote for him based on his Twitter rants, but his policies are working to the benefit of all. Do you really want Democrat proposals such as the Green New Deal or Biden’s promised tax hikes becoming official U.S. policy?

Policing, another P, is also going to spur voters this fall. Voters will decide whether they want to defund the police, as Democrats wish, or defend the police, as Republicans want.

Trump and his fellow Republicans are the law-and-order candidates. It’s hard to understand Democrats’ motivations for letting BLM rioters burn, loot, taunt and kill. Are Democrats appeasers of the mob? Are they co-conspirators? But for what benefit? No matter their intentions, dead police officers and fear regarding future mob actions will definitely shape election results.

They say only 2.5% of the population remains undecided entering the campaign season’s final stretch. While many other factors are in play, the pandemic, personality, policy and the nation’s policing methods will no doubt drive how politicians are picked Nov. 3.

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