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Collins and Bellows debate illustrates a stark contrast in ideologies

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, left, and Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows, right. BDN file photos.

The highlight of Thursday night’s debate between Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows was discussion about the impact of golf clubs in outer space and massages for rabbits’ feet.

More on that later.

The race between Collins and Bellows has not been close in the polls, with double-digit splits that are similar to the finishes for Collins’ two previous opponents: Chellie Pingree, who lost to Collins 58-42 percent in 2002; and Tom Allen, who lost 61-39 percent in 2008. Part of the reason Collins has such widespread and bipartisan support was evident Thursday evening as she and Bellows faced off in a televised debate hosted by WMTW.

Bellows, the former executive director of the ACLU of Maine, articulately and forcefully laid out a detailed platform built of individual freedom and economic parity that would confound almost anyone facing her on a debate stage. But Collins’ command of the issues, matter-of-fact defenses of her positions and an air of gravitas that she has built during more than 17 years in the U.S. Senate, were on full display.

On the issues, however, voters have clear contrasts to consider.

Homeland security/America’s military role
  • Bellows has called for deep cuts to defense and intelligence spending domestically and abroad, including strong opposition to overseas wars and conflicts that she says we can’t afford and which have don’t make the U.S. any safer. She opposes sending ground troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS militants absent “a direct and imminent threat to the U.S.” and deeply condemned the “surveillance industrial complex,” including programs that collect data from wide swaths of Americans. She called for a repeal of the Patriot Act.
  • Collins said the terrorist threat against America “has never been higher” and that domestic surveillance programs are necessary to root out threats, especially domestic terrorists. “I want to keep our country safe,” she said. “I think that’s government’s first priority.” Collins said she supports President Obama’s current efforts to encourage Middle Eastern countries to commit ground forces against the ISIS threat, rather than send American soldiers. She said she “can’t imaging why anyone would want to repeal the Patriot Act.”
Minimum wage
  • Collins favors a gradual increase of the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour but does not support going to $10.10 an hour, as Obama and others have proposed, because it would lead to widespread job losses. She said a livable wage for a “household” in Maine is $40,000 to $45,000 a year.
  • Bellows has made raising the minimum wage to $10.10, with automatic increases tied to inflation, one of the central themes of her candidacy. “There are a lot of folks working full time here in Maine, or working two or three jobs, just make make ends meet and not making it.” Bellows did not identify a specific livable wage, though she said $21,000, which is what $10.10 an hour translates to annually, is not enough, especially in urban areas.
Economic development
  • Bellows emphasized investments in public works, education, and especially broadband internet and cell phone access as well as a pursuit of a renewable energy sector in Maine that she said would create jobs and “tackle climate change.” She pledged to fight against international trade practices that are “eviscerating” Maine’s manufacturing sector.
  • Collins was quick to pivot to her cozy relationship with defense contractors in Maine, which has resulted in several labor union locals endorsing her candidacy. “First let me say that shipbuilding is so important to our state and there’s no one who’s been a stronger supporter of Bath Iron Works than I have.” She also advocated for targeted investments in workforce training that would help industrial sectors struggling to find workers, particularly machining.
Common Core/No Child Left Behind

Quick primer: The Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and English/language arts that was developed by a consortium of states to set benchmarks for student progress. Forty-six states, including Maine, have adopted Common Core, though three of those states dropped it in 2014 amid growing controversy. No Child Left Behind was a George W. Bush-era mandate that all students gradually reach 100 percent proficiency on standardized testing and other measures. NCLB has been amended in recent years and renamed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

  • Bellows said the Common Core and NCLB are harming schools. “We’re in this vicious cycle of testing and austerity,” she said amid an attack on Collins for supporting NCLB’s creation. “What we need to do is go back to basics to invest in school infrastructure and higher teacher pay and getting back to real public education, universal public education for all.”
  • Collins said she is a supporter of both NCLB and the Common Core — though she acknowledged that neither is perfect — and said she will not support any efforts by the federal government to tell states how to run public schools. “I oppose strongly having the federal government dictate what teaching methods should be used,” she said.
The Affordable Care Act
  • Bellows, who supports universal health care because “it is a fundamental human right,” attacked Collins for cosponsoring a bill to repeal the ACA and end health insurance for millions of people. “What we need to do is fix and strengthen it, not throw it out.”
  • Collins said she fears that as more of the provisions of the ACA come into effect, individual insurance premiums will rise and businesses, particularly smaller ones, will drown in expense and paperwork. But she said she is not for outright repeal. “Now that it’s in effect I think we’re just going to have to fix the most egregious problems with it.”
Immigration
  • Both are in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and opposed to the president using executive privilege to grant citizenship to illegal aliens.
Tidbits
  • In response to Collins describing how she has authored legislative fixes on a wide range of bills, including No Child Left Behind, Bellows had one of her strongest moments of the night: “Too often what we see in Washington are bipartisan bills that have some good elements but then some terrible consequences to our communities,” she said. “People don’t want a task force to study what went wrong with things like NCLB. What they want are good pieces of legislation in the first place, coalitions built around common ground rather than middle ground.”
  • Collins, one of the more moderate Republicans in the Senate (a notion with which Bellows disagrees), emphasized that point, highlighted how she’s worked across the aisle, including four separate mentions of independent Maine Sen. Angus King, who endorsed Collins earlier this year.
Why vote for Susan? Why vote for Shenna?
  • Bellows: “Elizabeth Warren [a rookie Democratic senator from Massachusetts] has proven that a young senator can be powerful.”
  • Collins: “I have the relationships, the clout and the know-how to get things done for the people of Maine.”
Outer space golf clubs and rabbit foot massages

Asked what federal programs, she’d cut, Bellows said National Security Agency budgets for domestic spying. Collins said she would cut “programs where money hasn’t been spent appropriately” such as a NASA program “that looked at the impact of golf clubs in outer space” and a National Institute of Health study on “massage for rabbits’ feet.”

“Those are ones where I don’t think we should have an increase,” said Collins.

Bellows and Collins are scheduled for two more televised debates: 5:30 p.m. Monday on WGME and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on WCSH.

WMTW says Emily Cain will skip debate because independent Blaine Richardson was not invited

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Democratic state Sen. Emily Cain (from left), Republican former State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and independent Blaine Richardson square off during the 2nd Congressional District debate on Tuesday at the CBS 13 television studios in Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN


The TV station WMTW News 8 reported that Emily Cain has pulled out of what was to be the final debate in the 2nd Congressional District election. As a result, the station will not be holding the debate.

The report says that Cain is skipping the debate “in protest” because the independent candidate, Blaine Richardson, was not invited. The TV station says they and their parent company, Hearst Television, have strict criteria to determine who qualifies for debates and that Richardson does not meet those criteria.

“He has not held any major campaign events, he has consistently been polling in the single digits, and he has only raised a fraction of the money that the other candidates have,” the story, by Paul Merrill, says. 

Merrill said Bruce Poliquin is willing to attend the debate.

It makes perfect sense that Cain would want Richardson to be in the picture and Poliquin would not. Richardson is a former Republican and falls to the right of the GOP’s candidate on many issues. Political observers say that if Richardson is going to have any impact on the race, it will be to siphon votes away from Poliquin.

“Richardson hovering at 3 to 6 percent could be the difference,” said Vic Berardelli of the Maine Republican Liberty Caucus.

“There are a lot of people that are concerned about whether he’ll be the spoiler in the race,” he said, referring to Richardson.

Cain’s press secretary, Amy Cookson, clarified on Thursday afternoon that Cain never pulled out the the debate, because she never committed to participate in it.

All three candidates participated in the other three other debates that have taken place so far during this election cycle. The first one was hosted by WGME and the BDN in Portland, the second was hosted by MPBN in Lewiston and the third was hosted by WAGM in Presque Isle.

A fourth and apparently final debate will take place Thursday night at the WCSH6 studios in Portland and all three candidates are expected to attend.

To read the full story, visit http://www.wmtw.com/politics/cain-skipping-from-wmtw-debate/29300796?utm_source=hootsuite&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=wmtwtv

Are anti-Poliquin mailers on abortion correct? The answer isn’t simple

Press Herald Politics -

For more than a month now, the Maine Democratic Party has been sending mailers to homes in the 2nd Congressional District with one message: Republican Bruce Poliquin wants government to regulate women’s bodies.

The claims in the mailers are cloudy, but that’s largely because of unclear past statements from Poliquin.

The party won’t say how much money it has spent on the mailers or the types of voters they went to, but there have been at least 10. But the party has emphasized women’s issues as a way to contract the positions of Poliquin, who opposes abortion, and his opponent, Emily Cain, a pro-abortion rights Democrat.

The mailer describes abortion and contraception as “health care decisions” that Poliquin would leave up to “politicians and bosses” instead of doctors and patients.

But are their finer points true? That takes some unpacking.

The mailer claims that Poliquin supports banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest. But in a recent debate on WGME-TV, he said he would support access to abortion in that situation.

Democrats base the claim on a statement Poliquin made in 2012, when he was running for U.S. Senate and said in a debate that “the only exception” he could envision to a ban on abortion would be if the life of a mother or child is in danger.

That could have been an oversight on Poliquin’s part: Carroll Conley, executive director of the pro-life Christian Civic League, said Poliquin has told pastors consistently that he supports the rape and incest exception.

“I know that’s not true,” Conley said of the mailer’s claim. Still, while the Democrats may have erred, it wasn’t a baseless claim.

Another claim in the mailers is that Poliquin wants to defund Planned Parenthood, putting cancer screenings at risk. This comes from that same 2012 debate, where he seems to say he would vote to cut off federal funding to the organization, which provides reproductive health services from cancer screenings to abortions.

Poliquin’s position hasn’t changed, according to Matthew Hutson, Poliquin’s campaign manager, saying the candidate thinks taxpayers “should not have to fund abortion service providers.”

“This does not mean, as numerous Democratic party mailers incorrectly portray, that he is opposed to the other services offered such as cancer screenings,” Hutson said.

However, Hutson wouldn’t answer a question about whether or not Poliquin would support a bill like one passed by House Republicans in 2011, saying Poliquin is “not looking backward, he is looking forward.”

That bill would have cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood that already can’t be used to provide abortions. But it would have limited access to “breast and cervical cancer screenings, annual exams, family planning visits, birth control, HIV testing, and more,” according to the organization.

Finally, the mailers also say that Poliquin “believes employers should decide whether or not women have access to contraception.” That stems from a statement he made after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case, which held that some companies’ religious objections can allow them to disobey the new health law’s mandate that they must cover contraceptives for women employees. Cain came out with a clear statement against the decision. But in full, he said:

“I believe in individual liberty and freedom. Women should have the ability to buy the contraceptive product of their choice. No one should restrict what a woman or man choose to purchase for contraception. Women and men should have the right to use or not use contraception at their own discretion without the courts or government telling them otherwise. The Supreme Court ruled small businesswomen and small businessmen have choices in the insurance plans they offer and for which they pay. The Supreme Court has ruled the government should not interfere with someone’s religious beliefs in forcing them to buy a product. I will not stand in the way of peoples’ freedom in the choice of what they purchase.”

That seems to say Poliquin supports contraception generally, but he accepts that business owners can choose not to provide it.

So while some of the mailers’ claims could be somewhat off, it’s easy to see where they came from. It’s not so much reckless Democratic messaging as it is ambiguity in Poliquin’s past statements.

In $236K radio ad buy, pro-Michaud super-PAC says: A vote for Cutler helps LePage

Press Herald Politics -

A political action committee funded by billionaire investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer on Wednesday disclosed it has purchased more than $236,000 in radio ads across the state opposing the reelection of Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

The financial filing by NextGen Climate super-PAC, which seeks to bring climate change to the forefront of U.S. politics, is the single largest expenditure in Maine for the group, which has committed to spending $50 million in seven states and supports the candidacy of Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.

The “Clear” radio ad hammers home the central argument of anti-LePage voters — that a vote for independent Eliot Cutler, the third candidate in the gubernatorial election, is a vote for LePage, who not only denies that humans are causing climate change but has suggested it could be a good thing for Maine’s economy.

A screen-grab from NextGenClimate.org.

According to mid-September poll conducted for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, Michaud holds a 2-percent lead over LePage, but that’s within the poll’s margin of error. Independent Eliot Cutler is a distant third at 12 percent, and many people fear he will draw enough progressive support from Michaud to pave the way for a victory by LePage.

The ad mimics people calling in weather reports, only they’re saying the choice for governor is clear.

“How clear is it Beth?” a male caller says. “Crystal. If you want LePage to take a hike, you gotta vote for Mike.”

The narrator says Michaud has a plan to weatherize homes and create jobs by investing in wind and solar energy, while LePage is embarrassing.

“Mike Michaud and Gov. Paul LePage are running neck-and-neck,” says a male caller. “Eliot Cutler is way behind, so a vote for him helps Paul LePage.”

The ad is slated to run on more than two dozen radios stations throughout the state, according to filings at the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Practices.

As of Wednesday, NextGen PAC had spent nearly $909,000 trying to influence the governor’s race.

Last month, NextGen strategist Chris Lehane promised a robust “air and ground campaign” that would target 90,000 so-called climate voters in Maine.

Here’s the full ad:

$1.6M spent to air bear hunt referendum TV ads

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Campaigns for and against Question 1 — the upcoming referendum that would ban the use of dogs, bait and traps in Maine bear hunting — have spent $1.6 million to run more than 4,000 television advertisements, according to information recently released by the Center for Public Integrity.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Fiedler

The analysis details spending through Oct. 20 for ads on local broadcast TV, as well as national network and national cable TV. The numbers don’t include money spent to make the ads. It also doesn’t include ads on the radio, online, through direct mail or aired on local cable systems.

The pro-ban group, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, has spent $860,500 to run nearly 2,200 ads. And the opposition, the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, has spent $712,700 to run about 1,800 ads.

Overall, the groups have spent approximately $1.50 for each Maine voter.

This year, Maine ranks 13th in the country for money spent on ballot questions, according to the analysis. Spending was highest in California, where voters have been hit with more than 33,000 ballot question TV ads worth about $54 million on six ballot measures.

Recent campaign finance reports show that groups in opposition to the bear referendum have outspent the referendum proponents so far this year. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting has raised about $1.6 million this year, while the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council has raised $1.87 million.

The vast majority of Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting’s money has come from the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States.

In contrast, the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council is being funded by a wide variety of groups, including numerous Maine outfitters and guiding businesses. Major contributors include U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance ($60,000), Washington D.C.-based Ballot Issues Coalition ($45,000) and the Maine Professional Guides Association ($111,278).

Also of note are contributions to the No on 1 Campaign by James Harris of Vermont: $85,000 in personal contributions, $65,000 from a business he owns called Harris Enterprises, and $35,000 from its subsidiary Vermont Wholesale Granite.

Here are a few of the television ads recently aired, just in case you missed them:

No on 1 ad

Yes on 1 ad

No on 1 ad

Yes on 1 ad

 

Students pick LePage for second term in mock election

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Gov. Paul LePage. BDN file photo by Gabor Degre

If were up to the roughly 12,000 students from across the state who participated in this year’s mock election, Republican Gov. Paul LePage would be sent back to the Blaine House for another four years.

According to results tallied Wednesday evening, 38.5 percent of students chose the incumbent governor, while 35.9 percent chose his Democratic rival, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. Independent Eliot Cutler drew the support of 25.4 percent of the students.

Students have proven surprisingly prescient over decades of gubernatorial year mock elections, which are organized by the Office of the Secretary of State.

In 2010, LePage edged Cutler with 28 percent support in the mock election, compared to the independent’s 27 percent. Then-Senate President Libby Mitchell, a Vassalboro Democrat, received 24 percent, while independents Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott received 13 and 7 percent, respectively.

Students in 2006 and 2002 chose Democrat John Baldacci, who also went on to win on the first Tuesday in November. According to BDN archives, students also accurately predicted wins for independent Gov. Angus King in 1994 and 1998, and Republican John McKernan in 1990.

This year, student ballots were tallied Wednesday at the Augusta Armory. More than 125 schools participated in the mock election, according to a spokeswoman from the Secretary of State’s office. Elementary, middle and high school students all participated.

Here are the results from other races and referendums decided by the students. (Note that all six general bond issues passed resoundingly).

U.S. Senator
  • Shenna Bellows, Democrats — 30.5 percent
  • Susan Collins, Republican — 69.1 percent
  • Write-in — 0.4 percent
1st Congressional District
  • Isaac Misiuk, Republican — 27.8 percent
  • Richard Murphy, Independent — 33.8 percent
  • Chellie Pingree, Democrat — 38.3 percent
  • Write-in — 0.1 percent
2nd Congressional District
  • Emily Cain, Democrat — 40.9 percent
  • Bruce Poliquin, Republican — 35.9 percent
  • Blaine Richardson, Independent — 22.8 percent
  • Write-in — 0.5 percent
Question 1: Support for ban on baiting, hounding and trapping bears
  • Yes — 47 percent
  • No — 53 percent

Ad words: Welfare, jobs and togetherness take center stage in gubernatorial plugs

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Last time we took a look at the language gubernatorial candidates are using to win your vote, there were about 10 ads from all the candidates.

Well, a month later and two weeks out from the election, we’ve got another 10 to throw in the mix. It’s clear that candidates have not much altered their messages but amplified them.And you can expect them to get much louder in the next two weeks.

Adding in the latest batch of ads — 20 total — it’s clear all have boosted focus on the economy and jobs. And Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign has put more attention on Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Here’s a walkthrough of various looks at the latest campaign language with more commentary below.

In panel 1 you can see the recurring themes and perspectives each candidate’s campaign wants to hammer home with its television ads. Each candidate, predictably, uses some mix of “I” along with their name and the word “Governor,” but none as much as LePage, who has consistently used the bully pulpit to make the claim that his actions speak louder than words. Welfare remained a oft-referenced topic in his ads. Michaud has criticized LePage for focus on what he said is a divisive issue. In that vein, the Democrat’s ads have deployed the words “together” and “can” more than his opponents. Independent Eliot Cutler has increased focus on the economy in his recent ads, using “jobs” more than his opponents.

In panel 2 you can get an immersive experience of all the candidates’ ads by viewing their collective cloud of words and then using the slider to view a word cloud for each candidate.

In panel 3 you can see the most oft-used phrases of the campaign, broken down by who said them the most. Here, you can get a sense for how often the candidates are going on the offensive. Gov. LePage’s ads continued to use his name most often. Michaud’s ads referred to the governor about half as many times as they refer to Michaud. Neither the Democrat or Republican have mentioned independent Eliot Cutler in their ads.

In panel 4 I’ve just had a little fun (broadly defined) with all that transcribing and taken a look at who’s able to put the most words into 30 second spots and what the average word length is for each candidate across all ads. And if you’d like to see for yourself, you can click on sections of the top bar chart to watch the ad on YouTube.

CD2 candidates debate abortion, jobs and Obamacare

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

From left to right: 2nd Congressional District candidates Emily Cain, D-Orono; Blaine Richardson, I-Belfast; and Bruce Poliquin, R-Oakland. BDN file photos by Brian Feulner, Chris Cousins and Robert F. Bukaty.

At a 2nd Congressional District debate in Presque Isle on Tuesday night, the three candidates started off more cordial, launching fewer attacks than they had during their previous public appearances together.

At the debate hosted by WAGM-TV and Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development, GOP candidate Bruce Poliquin attempted to soften comments about his opponent, Democratic candidate Emily Cain, by saying he wasn’t attacking her, just telling voters about her record. On more than one occasion, he called her Emily, after she asked him to stop calling her Ms. Cain during the last debate.

The candidates even agreed on some key issues. Neither Poliquin nor Cain said they would repeal the Affordable Care Act, both saying that there are some good aspects in it, such as the fact that people with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied health insurance. Both acknowledged that there are parts of the law that don’t work — particularly for small businesses. By contrast, the independent candidate, Blaine Richardson, said repealing the Affordable Care Act would be the first thing he would do in congress.

All three candidates supported a travel ban of some kind to stop the spread of Ebola, even though the director of the CDC warned that such action would make it harder for workers on the ground in West Africa to stop the spread of the disease.

They said they support mining on Bald Mountain, are opposed to the legalization of marijuana and none support the proposed ban on bear baiting.

But, as with the MPBN debate last week, it was when the candidates were asked to direct questions at each other that the gloves came off.

Both Richardson and Poliquin asked Cain about her position on a woman’s right to choose an abortion – a topic that they must think resonates with voters in Maine’s most northern county.

“I’m a pro-life Catholic,” said Poliquin, explaining that his views are shared by many in the district. “How do you think you can share the values and represent the values of the 2nd District when you support abortion providers 100 percent of the time?”

Cain responded, saying “politicians and bosses” should not interfere in a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

“It’s about making sure that women across our state have the right to make their own health care decisions every single time,” she said.

Anxiety around the economy and job prospects in the district continued to surface during the debate, as did the contest over who would be the best job creator.

After Richardson had asked Poliquin how many jobs he has created during the MPBN debate, Poliquin turned the question back on the independent candidate saying, “you don’t have any experience creating jobs.”

Richardson countered that he participated in his family’s greenhouse business where he was responsible for hiring and that he runs a construction company in Belfast, where he said he’s hired “hundreds.”

In his closing statement, however, Poliquin continued to present himself as the only businessman in the race.

“We have too many career politicians in Washington who have never created a job,” Poliquin said. “I’m the only candidate with 35 years of experience growing the economy and creating jobs.”

Cain touted her track record in the state Legislature during her closing statement, again attempting to reinforce her ability to work across the aisle and dig into the budgets.

The fourth and final debate will be held in Portland on Thursday night and broadcast on NBC.

Last night’s debate is up on WAGM-TV’s website, which is here:

http://wagmtv.com/2014-congressional-debate-with-emily-cain-bruce-poliquin-blaine-richardson-10-21-2014-wagm-tv/

 

 

RGA ad says state is “Open for Business”

Press Herald Politics -

The Republican Governor’s Association has released a new television advertisment touting the business expertise of Gov. Paul LePage.

The ad stars a woman identified only as Carolyn of Scarborough, who tells viewers that she is an independent who believes in the changes in regulatory process initiated by LePage.

In addition to 17,000 new jobs, the reforms “sent a very important message that this was a state that was open for business,” the woman says.

The economy and job creation have been major issues in the gubernatorial election, and have featured prominently in the five debates between LePage, Congressman Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler.

The Republican Governor’s Association has backed LePage heavily in his re-election bid. The group’s chair, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has visited Maine three times, and LePage has traveled to New Jersey once to attend a fundraiser hosted by Christie.

The show must go on: MPBN to host debate with just one gubernatorial candidate

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler during an Oct. 15 debate in Augusta. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

Maine Public Broadcasting Network has announced it will hold its regular gubernatorial debate on Thursday, Oct. 23, at Husson University’s Gracie Theater in Bangor.

Well, actually, “debate” may no longer be an accurate descriptor for the event, as only independent candidate Eliot Cutler will be in attendance.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage has declined an invitation to participate, and Democratic candidate and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud has said he will only show up if LePage is there. That leaves Eliot Cutler, alone.

Cutler will be interviewed, one-on-one, by MPBN’s Jennifer Rooks for a half-hour. Two empty podiums — one for each of his opponents — will appear beside him. He will be asked questions written by MPBN staff, as well as questions submitted by viewers and listeners.

After the half-hour debate, MPBN will re-broadcast a 1972 debate between then-U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican, and her Democratic opponent, William Hathaway. The challenger won the election, unseating Chase Smith after a 24-year tenure.

The debate will be broadcast live on MPBN television, radio and online. The network has been hosting debates since the 1960s, according to Mal Leary, managing editor of the network’s Maine Capitol Connection TV channel and producer for the debates.

The three candidates had already appeared in five debates in the past two weeks, including three that were televised throughout broad swaths of central and southern Maine. But Leary said MPBN is the only network that truly broadcasts statewide, including in the sparsely populated Aroostook and Washington counties.

“They’re bypassing the biggest venue of all these debates,” Leary said Wednesday.

Leary said LePage had not confirmed his absence until early Wednesday morning. For the previous weeks, the campaign’s official word had been only that they “could not commit at this time,” he said.

Leary said consideration was never given to cancelling the debate, and it’s clear why: Doing so would end a roughly half-century tradition of publicly broadcast debates, setting a precedent for future years where the network’s programming would be out of its own hands. For the network’s integrity, the show had to go on.

Plus, high-level officials at the network are still hoping the other two candidates may have a last-minute change of heart.

“We are still hoping that all three candidates appear at the debate at Gracie,” said MPBN News Director Keith Shortall in a news release. “We have a history of holding these debates as a public service to the people of Maine and we feel that the candidates have a responsibility to make themselves available to express their views and allow Maine’s citizens to make an informed choice on November 4.”

MPBN’s debate will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday. It will be rebroadcast at 1 p.m. Friday on MPBN Radio and on Sunday on MPBN Television.

The economics of wealth

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

What do you consider rich?

It is an important question. Our definition of “poor,” “just getting by,” “middle-class,” and “rich” have major implications on public policy.

Politicians build entire careers on seeding jealousy and anger among each of these groups — in both directions — which they then use to pit groups of people against each other, to win elections and make substantive policy changes.

This week, the gubernatorial debates provided us an opportunity to see how this politically motivated class resentment works up close.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, in predictable fashion, dusted off a rather tired talking point, and accused Gov. Paul LePage of pushing a tax cut for the (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) top 1 percent of Maine families.

The accusation is, of course, nonsense. The tax reform package passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor removed roughly 70,000 low income people from income tax liability, and cut the top marginal rate, which kicked in at an astonishingly low $19,500.

As to my original question in this column, I think we can all agree that $19,500 isn’t rich. It isn’t even lower middle-class.

In response to Michaud’s ludicrous assertion, the governor correctly cited the dropping tax burden on low-income families, as well as the fifth-highest-in-the-nation burden on those making $100,000 a year. LePage then noted that those making $100,000 a year are, “the richest people in Maine,” before going on to say, “And I don’t know how many of you are making $100,000, but it’s not that rich.”

It was an appeal to the audience to not fall into the trap of class conflict. The people doing the best in Maine are themselves not exactly rolling in barrels of cash, so treating them as though they are is a punitive, damaging policy priority. We are all not each other’s enemy, but are in this together.

Predictably, Michaud and his allies pounced on the rather thoughtful reply. They simply couldn’t help themselves. The attacks were swift, petty, and completely unhelpful to anyone but Michaud.

What is considered “rich” is relative. Growing up in central Maine, I believed that $30,000 a year made you rich. That perception has changed over time, obviously, as I have grown older, gotten married, and had some kids.

So it is worth asking, is a married couple who each make $50,000 a year and have a couple kids really “rich” in Maine?

There are a lot of variables to consider when determining that, but in most instances I would suggest to you, they really aren’t.

Such a family, for instance, immediately loses about $11,638 in federal income taxes, $6,200 in Social Security taxes, $1,450 in Medicare taxes and $6,985 in Maine income taxes. That’s before they start to pay bills.

Factor in for all four members of this family the cost of a mortgage payment, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, car payments, car insurance, gasoline, health insurance, prescription drugs, student loan payments for both adults, clothes for everyone, electricity, home heating oil, water and sewer, cell phones, internet, cable, groceries, your children’s activities, expenses for a pet, haircuts, and infrequent entertainment and occasionally eating out.

Most of what a family of four had in income is eaten up right there. And you will notice the absence of things like “vacations” or “saving for retirement” or “paying for my kids’ college education.”

You also don’t see things like, “my head gasket blew” or “there’s a hole in my roof” or “I have some unexpected medical bills.”

At the end of the month, such a family very easily could have little to nothing left over to save, or even potentially be in the red.

Families all over Maine make a lot less than that and make it work, and there is no question that some of the bills I mentioned could be cut, or the amount spent on them reduced.

No one is asking you to feel sorry for such a family, and no one is suggesting they are in financial crisis. But people in that income bracket are not talking about spending the summer on their yacht or furnishing the camp they have on a lake. So let’s stop pretending they are “rich” and are “out of touch.”

The real point shouldn’t be that one family lives more efficiently than another, or that a family such as this couldn’t make do with less. The point is that having cable television, a pet, being able to go out to the Olive Garden with your family once a month and not being able to take a vacation isn’t exactly the lifestyle of the “rich.”

In fact, it is the very essence of a middle-class lifestyle.

The world we live in today is a great deal more expensive than in the past, and everyone’s money buys less than it used to. Whether we make $20,000 a year, $40,000, $80,000 or $100,000, we are trying to get by the best that we can.

Our government and our political candidates should stop pitting us all against each other, sowing jealousy, mistrust and anger. We buy it hook, line and sinker.

Some day, we should start to punish, rather than reward, those who create divisions in this way.

With the debates behind us did anyone swing the needle?

Press Herald Politics -

The Maine’s gubernatorial debates have now ended, with less than two weeks to go before voters head to the polls and select their choice for governor. A handful of the debates were televised, giving Mainer’s the ability to see the candidates in action and get a better idea of who each person is and what they stand for.

Political analysts Phil Harriman and Ethan Strimling attended or watched all the debates — even the ones you needed a ticket to get into — and they joined Sharon Rose Vaznis and Jackie Ward on the MORNING REPORT to discuss who performed the best over the course of the debates and whether or not any of the candidates gained/lost any ground in the polls.

You can see their thoughts in the video above or by clicking here.

Collins, Bellows spar in first debate

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Democrat Shenna Bellows went on the offensive against Republican Sen. Susan Collins on Monday night during the first of five debates in the U.S. Senate race as she attempts to make headway against the popular, three-term incumbent.

The two sparred over the minimum wage, equal pay for women, energy, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and Collins’ voting record during an hour-long debate hosted by WAGM in Presque Isle.  The link to WAGM’s video of the debate is available here.

First debates are always interesting to watch as the candidates size each other up and hone their strategies. And the Collins-Bellows match-up was not disappointing.

The clear underdog in the race, Bellows repeatedly criticized Collins for voting with “Washington Republicans” on issues important to Maine voters in a clear attempt to chip away at Collins’ reputation as a moderate.

“We cannot afford more Republican gridlock and a vote for Susan is a vote for Republican control in Washington,” Bellows said, referring to the close battle for control of the Senate. “It’s a vote for the status quo.”

Although Bellows’ responses at times sounded somewhat scripted, the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine was assertive and well spoken. Collins, in turn, countered Bellows’ attacks with detailed responses about her efforts to build bipartisan bridges in Washington while accusing the Democrat of distorting her positions.

“This is an example of where it is very disappointing to hear my record repeatedly misrepresented by my opponent,” Collins said after one exchange in which Bellows accused her of supporting a budget bill that cut funding for domestic violence programs. “I don’t think that’s what the people of Maine deserve.”

Of course, Bellows was also taking a risk by going after Collins in a debate viewed almost exclusively by residents of Aroostook County – the senator’s home turf, as the Caribou native made clear throughout the debate.

“I was born here, graduated from Caribou High School and have spent every Christmas of my life here,” Collins said in her opening remarks. “I loved growing up in Aroostook County. . . . It is Aroostook County that has shaped the person that I am.”

One of the most substantive discussions centered on increasing the minimum wage.

Bellows accused Collins of voting with her Republican colleagues to “block” Democrats’ proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Collins retorted that she supports a $9-an-hour wage but that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., blocked her bipartisan attempt at a compromise.

“So what are we left with? No increase in the minimum wage where I believe the proposal that I have advanced for an increase to $9 an hour could and would become law,” Collins said. “And that is what wrong with Washington today, that we have a situation where only one proposal gets considered, alternatives cannot be brought forward and the low-income families get left behind.”

Bellows response: “What’s wrong with Washington is when members of Congress making $174,000 a year think that $10.10 an hour, or $21,000 a year, is too much.”

Collins, meanwhile, appeared to stump Bellows when she asked the Democrat to justify statements on her website criticizing the senator’s attempts to change federal regulations that she claims would have severely harmed Maine industry’s ability to burn woody biomass for energy.

The pair got into lively back-and-forth debates over a veterans bill, the “sequestration” budget cuts, the federal government’s role in education and Collins’ long-standing policy of not publicly weighing in on statewide referendum campaigns.

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network will broadcast the first statewide televised debate between Collins and Bellows on Wednesday starting at 8 p.m.

Progressive Super PAC debuts with $106K to oppose LePage over weekend

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

A national Super PAC registered in Maine earlier this month has made its first expenditure, putting $106,000 of another PAC’s money into an online ad opposing Gov. Paul LePage.

The group Progressive Kick IE Maine had the second-highest amount of independent expenditures in the gubernatorial race over the weekend, after the Maine Conservation Voters Action Fund. The conservation group spent $265,677 on TV ad buys opposing LePage and $88,677 on ads supporting Michaud over the weekend. The group in August launched an ad criticizing LePage’s environmental record.

The spending from these PACs is separate from what campaigns spend in the race to try and sway voters’ opinions. Coordinating those expenditures with a campaign is against state law, though coordination is, understandably, hard to track or prove.

Progressive Kick received $250,000 from the PAC National Nurses United for Patient Protection in early October, the pool of money used for its ad buys.

According to Progressive Kick’s website, the PAC targets congressional candidates and state legislators. In its registration filing, the PAC indicated that its purpose is to oppose both LePage and independent Eliot Cutler.

The spending from the newcomer PAC Progressive Kick IE Maine provides a preview of some of the challenges in tracking independent expenditures by PACs and party committees in the two weeks before the election, particularly as those groups are turning more attention to House and Senate races.

The spending reports are available on a special page from the Maine Ethics Commission, which provides the PDF files of filings for each outside group filing independent expenditures in state races.

Some of those filings are done by hand. Others are done electronically and are available for download in spreadsheets where it’s possible to see the total spending and types of spending by a specific PAC as the race nears.

But there’s one key thing missing from the data: who the group supported or opposed with the spending.

I’m told those fields will be added to the Ethics Commission data, expected in advance of the election.

That still leaves the commission with the challenge of navigating between electronic and paper reports for independent expenditures, which is just one aspect of the commission’s work in this election. So far, outside groups have filed more than 245 individual PDF reports documenting at least $7 million in spending.

As of Oct. 10, independent expenditures totaled $6.83 million, topping the 2010 record of $4 million.

Bellows, Collins offer competing economic and jobs plans

Press Herald Politics -

The focus of Maine’s U.S. Senate race has turned to jobs and job creation as Democrat Shenna Bellows unveiled an “economic plan” while Republican Sen. Susan Collins released a new ad and touted her own jobs plan.

The plans outlined Friday by the competing campaigns were aligned on several non-controversial areas, such as increased investment in workforce training and on the development of cutting-edge renewable energy technology that would benefit Maine. The Democrat and Republican diverged on several key points, however, such as Bellows’ call for a $10.10 minimum wage and for a “carbon tax.”

Bellows predicted that her plan would hope create full-time jobs “in a way that helps workers, small businesses and entrepreneurs, invests in infrastructure . . . pays wages that support working families, promotes green energy, provides retirement security and rebuilds our middle class.”

The seven-point plan calls for:

  • Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
  • Additional federal investment in job training programs, career counseling and relocation assistance programs for those affected by the “economic restructuring” affecting Maine’s manufacturing sectors.
  • Creation of a Small Business Extension Service similar to the Agricultural Extension Service to advise and train “budding entrepreneurs” in how to build and run a business.
  • Investment in the infrastructure for high-speed internet and cellular service.
  • Reforming student loans by lowering interest rates on federal loans, imposing additional checks and balances on private loans to prevent abuse and “loan forgiveness” programs for students who go on to work in schools, nonprofits, etc…
  • Invest in renewable energy in part by imposing a “carbon tax” on emitters of greenhouse gases.
  • Strengthening Social Security by “scrapping the cap” that exempts income above $117,000 from the payroll tax that funds Social Security.

“Right now, policies coming from Washington benefit the few at the expense of the many. For too many, the American dream feels unattainable,” reads the plan’s conclusion. “It doesn’t have to be that way. Through federal investment in small business development, infrastructure and workers, we can create economic opportunity in our local economies.”

The full Bellows plan is available here.

Just prior to Bellows holding a press conference on her economic plan, the Collins campaign announced that a new job-related campaign ad is airing on stations around the state, although campaign spokesman Lance Dutson said the timing of the ad and the Bellows event were coincidental. The ad discusses Collins’ efforts to expand programs for workforce training, apprenticeships and other jobs programs.

The campaign also highlighted a “7-Point Plan for Maine Jobs” that Collins released in 2011 and revised this year.

That plan calls for:

  • Targeted funding to colleges and universities to develop “manufacturing-based curriculum, job training programs and research opportunities” while providing workforce assistance those who lose jobs.
  • Investment in renewable energy such as offshore wind power.
  • Additional promotion of Maine agricultural products to expand export markets, paid for in part “by ending wasteful agriculture subsidies.”
  • Reform the tax code, such as reducing the employer portion of the payroll tax, to reduce the tax burden on businesses.
  • Require federal agencies to take into account impacts on small businesses and job growth  before imposing new rules.
  • Improve the efficiency and reliability of the nation’s transportation network.
  • Continued support for Maine’s manufacturing industry.

“Senator Collins has been a long-time advocate for Maine’s small businesses,” Dutson said in a statement. “From her background of growing up in a family that runs a 5th generation retail lumber businesses, to her work as the northeast head of the Small Business Administration she has been a champion for Maine jobs.  This work has continued in the United States Senate, which is why she her campaign has been supported by both America’s leading business groups and key labor organizations in Maine.”

Here is the latest Collins ad:

Ebola anxiety can’t be cured by cutting government

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Ebola is a horrific disease that’s become a target of overreaction by frightened people who, like most, do a poor job in judging what’s a real risk.

But it’s also an example of how inadequate health programs are dangerous.

Even before Ebola came to our shores, government mattered. The lack of any credible public health infrastructure made it much harder to effectively contain the disease at its source.

As physician Paul Farmer wrote, “[W]eak health systems, not unprecedented virulence or a previously unknown mode of transmission, are to blame for Ebola’s rapid spread” in West Africa. “Weak health systems are also to blame for the high case-fatality rates in the current pandemic.”

Our country boasts highly trained experts in infectious disease and the excellent federal Center for Disease Control but spending for public health programs has been cut.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Overall, investment in key health system functions has been in decline. The CDC’s 2013 budget declined 10 percent, or nearly $1 billion, from 2012. Since 2008, state and local public health agencies have lost more than 50,000 staff (almost 20 percent of their workforce), requiring cuts to preparedness programs.”

Cuts have also hit research on Ebola. In 2010, the National Institute of Health devoted $37 million for an Ebola vaccine but was spending less than half of that in 2014. The head of NIH, Francis Collins, recently said that if cuts had not been made, “we probably would have had a vaccine” by now.

Now, no one can know for sure what researchers and public health officials would have been able to accomplish if funding were not slashed. And, even with adequate resources, the right decisions must be made.

But we most certainly know that those cuts were the direct result of the debt ceiling blackmail by congressional Republicans, which led to severe cuts in domestic spending via the so-called sequester and other budgetary constraints.

Like Bruce Poliquin, currently running to fill Mike Michaud’s seat in the U.S. House, those Republicans signed activist Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge. This promise, as Poliquin’s primary rival Kevin Raye pointed out, would preclude votes closing loopholes for special interests like particular companies.

Poliquin’s refrain has been that taxes should be cut and that the debt and deficit are too high but he never outlines what spending would have to be reduced to make that math work.

Whenever you hear someone calling for cuts in spending without saying what programs will be hit, the likelihood is the budget axe will fall on some important program without a crew of high-priced lobbyists touting it. Big corporations and trade groups have many lobbyists. Public health efforts, although they save lives, have far fewer.

There hasn’t been any Ebola in Maine, thank goodness.

But in Maine, Gov. Paul LePage not only refused to expand MaineCare but dropped people from it.

During candidate debates, LePage has been bringing a letter from the federal government about MaineCare reimbursements and using it as a debate prop. But the letter doesn’t say what he asserts it does.

The governor falsely claims that everyone who would have been covered if not for his five MaineCare vetoes can just go out and get private subsidized insurance on the health care exchange. He is either misinformed or knows the truth and doesn’t want to acknowledge it.

Who is paying the price? The tens of thousands of Mainers in the coverage gap, who will be more likely to die of preventable conditions and to get sicker, and their loved ones.

This same governor considered having Riverview go without federal accreditation and proposed a budget that would have cut funding for rural hospitals and eliminated the Drugs for the Elderly program.

As for Ebola, although LePage has said Maine is prepared to deal with an outbreak, the head of the Maine State Nurses Association disagrees. According to Cokie Giles, “It is a lethal virus, and most of the hospitals — or maybe all of the hospitals — do not readily keep on hand many of the suggested resources that you need in order to protect the patient, yourself and the community against this virus.”

To protect Americans from Ebola and other illnesses, we need resources. Anti-government ideologies are not only simplistic but also harmful to our health.

National pro-choice group launches campaign to ‘push Michaud over the finish line’

Press Herald Politics -

NARAL Pro-Choice America on Monday announced a “six-figure campaign to help push Mike Michaud over the finish line.”

Michaud, a six-term congressman from northern Maine and Democratic candidate for governor, is trying to unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Recent polls show Michaud with a slight lead, though within the polls’ margin of error, over LePage.

Independent Eliot Cutler, who has been criticizing Michaud’s pro-life past, trails in a distant third place. Michaud says his views on abortion have evolved after listening to the stories of women, a crucial voting bloc for Democrats.

NARAL endorsed Michaud in March, citing his 100 percent rating with the group in recent years. On Monday, the group said in a press release it plans to send three rounds of direct mailers to 35,000 “key voters” and launch an aggressive digital campaign.

The mailers largely echo the messaging of Planned Parenthood’s political action committee, which is also spending six figures to help elect Michaud. The mailers hit LePage for opposing abortion, and cutting funding for family planning clinics, which provide preventative health services, cancer screenings and birth control to many low-income women.

According to campaign finance records, NARAL Pro-Choice Maine political action committee had made two independent expenditures of more than $23,460 each on Oct. 14 and Oct. 17.

Here’s a look at the mailers:

Collins-Bellows to square off tonight during first of five debates

Press Herald Politics -

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democrat Shenna Bellows will share a stage in Presque Isle tonight during the first of five televised debates in Maine’s race for U.S. Senate.

The first debate is being sponsored by WAGM-TV in Presque Isle, which means only television viewers living in northern Maine will be able to watch the event live. The station plans to post the video of the hour-long debate on its website, wagmtv.com, as early as Monday night, so those outside of WAGM’s territory may want to check there periodically. I will also post a link to WAGM’s video of the debate here when it becomes available.

Here is the schedule for the other four Senate debates between Collins, an 18-year veteran, and Bellows:

  • Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. – Maine Public Broadcasting Network/Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce at Husson University in Bangor
  • Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. – WMTW in Auburn
  • Oct. 27 at 5:30 p.m. – WGME CBS 13/Bangor Daily News in Portland
  • Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. – WCSH in Portland

Viewers can expect lively discussion between the two. Collins is, of course, no stranger to political debates after 18 years in the Senate. Likewise, Bellows participated in her share of political discussions during her eight years as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and as a leader in the referendum campaigns to legalize same-sex marriage and to restore same-day voter registration in Maine.

Bellows, 39, has been aggressively challenging Collins in recent months on issues such as increasing the minimum wage, workplace pay discrimination, campaign finance reform/Citizens United, national security, the Affordable Care Act and her role in last year’s government shutdown. The Collins campaign has responded by portraying the Bellows campaign as error-prone when it comes to the senator’s record and out-of-step with mainstream Maine voters.

This will be Bellows’ first chance to challenge Collins directly, and Collins first chance to respond directly — or to challenge her challenger. Bellows had pushed unsuccessfully for 10 debates starting earlier in the election season. While the Democrat has made some headway against Collins, she still trails the moderate Republican by large margins in recent polls, so her campaign is counting on a strong showing during the debates to close that gap as they enter the final two weeks.

Cutler campaign goes dark

Press Herald Politics -

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog surmising that Eliot Cutler was “pulling up stakes.” Although personally very wealthy, he had decided to dramatically decrease the amount of money he was spending on TV at a time when every other competitive campaign was increasing their amount.

You should have seen the reaction (or maybe you did). Cutler’s top operatives went into full scale attack/damage control. His top guy, Ted O’Meara, said to my colleague Steve Mistler, “As usual Ethan Strimling doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We filmed seven new ads on Monday.” His top media person, Crystal Canney wrote on Twitter, “Ethan’s political analysis is a lot like his political campaigns – goes nowhere.”  She called this paper to complain and then called me personally to tell me how disappointed she was and flatly declared, “We are not pulling up stakes.” When I asked why they had pulled all their money off TV, she refused to answer and said she was done speaking with me.

After I explained all this to a friend, he sent me a note saying, “As they say in the Air Force: if they’re shooting at you, you are probably over the target.”

Boy does it turn out that I was over the target. Despite the campaign saying they had filmed seven ads and were preparing big TV buys, Cutler has decreased his TV time weekly. The week I wrote about in my original blog, he ended up with $55,000 on TV. The next, $50,000. The next, $29,000.

And for the week we are currently in…wait for it…team Cutler has purchased $4,000 worth of TV.

Just to give you some comparative idea of how this stacks up, the LePage and Michaud campaigns have purchased well over $200,000 each for the same week. And groups supporting them have each purchased an additional $250,000 – $350,000 for the same week (there are currently no outside groups supporting Eliot, which tells us a whole different story). All told, this means Cutler may be outspent 100-1 this week by each of the other campaigns.

For all intents and purposes, this means Cutler has basically gone dark on TV. He has simply decided to stop spending money on the best way to communicate his message to the voters. And when you decide to go dark on TV, especially when you have the resources to do so, that usually means you understand that you have no chance to win.

 

 

Why bringing the president, first lady or a congressman to Maine matters, plus 7 stories you need to read

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Former President Bill Clinton and Maine gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud hit the stage at the Portland Expo recently in Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Part of the calculus for many voters trying to figure out who to support has to do with trying to imagine the candidate in the position he or she is running for. That’s why some campaigns go to such lengths to bring in big names and make sure the media has an opportunity to spread a photo or video of the candidate and the visitor stumping together.

It’s a strategy that all three gubernatorial candidates are employing, as well as 2nd Congressional District Republican nominee Bruce Poliquin.

On Sunday, Democrat Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign announced that former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton will rally for Michaud on Friday in Scarborough. President Barack Obama previously agreed to come to Maine on Michaud’s behalf on Oct. 30. Former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Barack Obama have already been on stages with Michaud in recent weeks.

In addition, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has had three visits from New Jersey Gov. and Chair of the Republican Governor’s Association Chris Christie and independent candidate Eliot Cutler has landed the support of former Maine governor and current U.S. Sen. Angus King.

So what’s the point?

Beyond the obvious — that having former presidents and presidential hopefuls in Maine is a big deal that attracts a lot of media attention — there may be a little more to it when it comes to Michaud. The six-term congressman has been attacked for weeks for what his opponents say has been a lackluster political career. Appearing in press coverage with his arm held up, prize-fighter style, by Bill Clinton or Michelle Obama creates the impression that Michaud is part of the Washington establishment, which of course he is.

That said, one or more of the Democratic royalty would probably visit Maine regardless of who the gubernatorial candidate is, just as happened in 2010. The Clintons and Obamas coming is an indication that the Democratic universe recognizes that the race between Michaud and Republican Gov. Paul LePage is a toss-up.

There’s also a fund-raising component, at least at the Hillary Clinton event. Like her husband did earlier this month, Clinton will participate in a photo line where people make a donation in order to have their picture taken with her. The Michaud campaign said today that there is no fund raising component to Obama’s visit.

Bruce Poliquin, the Republican nominee for the 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by Michaud, also had some star power on his side on Sunday when U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, attended a fund raiser with Poliquin in the Oxford County town of Norway. That follows on a visit in September on Poliquin’s behalf by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

McCarthy is by no means as big a name as Boehner, mostly because he gained his leadership role in the House just this past August when former leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, lost in a primary bid for reelection. The McCarthy fund raiser wasn’t a public event, but McCarthy and Poliquin did sit for an interview with WMTW.

They emphasized that with Republicans likely to maintain their House majority, McCarthy will be in a position to place Poliquin on influential committees. The Cain campaign said Mainers don’t care about visits from “Washington insiders,” though Cain has also been endorsed by some Washington higher-ups, including independent Maine Sen. Angus King and former Democratic Sen. George Mitchell of Maine.

In news related to the 2nd Congressional District race, Roll Call reported today that the National Republican Congressional Committee is cutting back on its television advertising in the race between now and election day. The NRCC had originally reserved $1.6 million in TV time on behalf of Poliquin but has since decided to direct its resources to other races. That could be because Poliquin’s chances of victory appear to be improving, though some 25 percent of the voters in the race tell pollsters they’re undecided. In recent days, the Cook Political Report has moved the race from “leaning Democrat” to “toss up.” 

Here’s your Monday list of 7 recent political stories you need to read

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