Is a sea change looming in Maine politics?
One of the more interesting recent political stories is by Colin Woodard in the September issue of Down East magazine. Woodard may not have intended to do it, but he has added to a growing belief that a major reshaping of Maine's political matrix is taking place.
The first part of his article is pretty much a rehash of the proposition that the Maine GOP has veered so far to the right that it has become little more than an arm of the Tea Party. Nothing new in that. It's what Democrats -- and many in the mainstream media -- would like voters to think.
But toward the end of what turns out to be an informative piece, Woodard gets into what, IMHO, should have been his lead: the possibility that the Republican Party in Maine is taking on an entirely new and much different look. But not because of any Tea Party influence.
Evidence of this change has been slowly building for several years, becoming most apparent in Sen. Susan Collins' surprising sweep of several traditionally Democratic bastions in her 2008 victory over Tom Allen. Until now this has been pictured (by the few who dared to mention it) as an anomaly that will correct itself in the next election.
But will it? In his article, Woodard quotes Robert A. G. Monks, generally pictured as a liberal Republican maverick, as opining that Paul LePage's stunning victory in the GOP gubernatorial primary could be a sign of more to come.
Monks, a respected financial guru and onetime GOP Senate candidate, suggests that LePage could lead Maine's potent and heavily Democratic Franco-American voting bloc into to the Republican camp much as Ronald Reagan did other ethnic groups 30 years ago.
He argues that Franco Americans, who as a group are strongly family and church-oriented, might feel more more at home in a party that is more conservative culturally. Especially, he might have added, when its ticket is topped by names like LePage and Levesque. .
Monks told Woodard that he personally would not feel comfortable in a such a conservative party (no surprise) but would not leave it (big surprise).
But can Paul LePage assume the political Pied Piper role that Monks assigns to him? Who knows? LePage makes a point of denying he has that power. But even the possibility of a migration by Franco-Americans to the GOP -- upsetting the traditional lop-sided voting norms in places like Biddeford, Lewiston and the St. John Valley -- ought to be enough to give the state's Democratic power brokers chills.