Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey will come up to Maine for a reception with our own GOP governor, Paul LePage, and his wife, Ann, on May 7 in Portland.
The announcement was made in a fundraising email to supporters from The Committee to Re-Elect Paul LePage. Today is the last day of the current campaign finance reporting period, and the notice about Christie’s stop in Maine’s largest city is an attempt to get one last donation rally before the books on Q1 close at midnight.
Tickets for the event cost between $150 (general reception for an individual) and $1,500 (VIP reception for a couple).
Christie’s May 11 stop will be the second visit from a high-profile 2016 presidential hopeful in less than two weeks. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will speak at the Republican State Convention on Saturday.
Paul and Christie offer two different flavors of Republican candidate; Paul is a Tea Party darling of the libertarian, free-market crowd, while Christie is a more-or-less moderate conservative from a reliably Democratic state (he even approved Medicaid expansion).
LePage will share a stage with both men, though it’s likely for the best that it’s not on the same night: Christie and Paul have traded several barbs in the past year as both have angled for the soul of the party leading up to 2016’s presidential election.
Last year, Christie called Paul’s brand of libertarianism “dangerous” for its opposition to using a broad surveillance regime to ferret out and prevent terrorism. He cast the entire libertarian school of thought as one for those interested only in intellectual debates, not pragmatic policymaking.
Both high-profile Republicans could give LePage a boost in his gubernatorial campaign against Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent businessman Eliot Cutler. Most polls have indicated a close race between the two partisan nominees.
The Maine Republican Party famously fractured in recent years, split by a philosophical divide between its libertarian wing and its members who’d be best described as more traditional “Yankee Republicans.” This year, top officials in the GOP are preaching party unity and it seems to be working, but conflict remains between these two factions on a host of issues.
LePage’s campaign strategy must begin with the enthusiasm and support of as many Republicans as possible. Kind words and support from Paul and Christie could go a long way in creating more enthusiasm among their respective supporters.
That enthusiasm — and the ensuing volunteer hours and campaign dollars — will make it easier for the governor to create some distance between himself and Michaud. If he can manage to be all things to all people in the Republican party, his path to victory is a lot clearer.