Vindicated at the polls by a re-election that saw Republican Gov. Paul LePage pick up a winning 48 percent of the vote — 10 percent more of the total vote than he did four years earlier — Republicans are having a little fun at the expense of “the 61 percent.”
In a fundraising email sent today, the Maine GOP told potential donors that in exchange for a $25 contribution, they could get a “limited edition” bumper sticker that proudly displays an affinity for the governor. Its design is strikingly familiar …
In case you’ve forgotten, that bumper sticker was everywhere (or at least, everywhere in Southern Maine) after the 2010 election. A lot of Mainers felt let down after LePage was elected with less than 40 percent of the vote that year. Many voters felt like they were stuck with a governor who wouldn’t even have been their second choice, let alone their first.
A Portland resident named Chris Korzen started a political action committee called Maine’s Majority to advocate for progressive candidates, but according to reports filed with the Maine Ethics Commission, the group engaged in relatively little financial activity other than selling the “61 percent” bumper stickers.
But enough history. Let’s get back to the GOP’s response, four years later.
The number on the sticker — 294,533, the number of votes LePage won in last year’s election — is part of a rhetorical device the party has been using since election night totals were tallied. Here’s the line from the email: “Did you know that Governor LePage won re-election with the largest vote total in Maine history? That’s right, no Governor in Maine history received as many votes as our Governor Paul LePage did this past November.”
Technically, that’s true. But it’s also a bit misleading. While LePage 2014 may have garnered more votes than any other gubernatorial campaign in Maine history, that figure doesn’t really tell us much about his electoral mandate.
After all, Mike Michaud — the governor’s Democratic opponent last year — earned the third-highest vote total ever. (No. 2 on the list was Democrat Joe Brennan in 1982, but Brennan had the benefit of a two-way race that year, while the 2014 electoral contest had three candidates.)
None of that is to take away from the governor’s victory. But the total number of voters in Maine gubernatorial elections has been growing steadily for the past 20 years, so LePage’s huge number of votes — and it is huge — is at least partly a function of Maine’s growing electorate.
PS: I’ve heard that this year, anti-Lepage voters have begun circulating “52 percent” stickers, but I’ve yet to see one. Let me know if you have.