Hillary Clinton pressured by Maine students on Keystone XL

There was only one real hitch in Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s Friday rally in Portland — when it was interrupted by students pressing her for a stance on the Keystone XL pipeline.

A group of activists from Bowdoin College rose during Clinton’s speech, holding signs urging her to oppose the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Texas coast and is opposed by environmental groups. The students are part of a group pushing Bowdoin to divest its endowment from large fossil fuel companies.

Clinton has gotten heat for sitting the fence on the issue: As secretary of state under President Barack Obama, she began the environmental review process on the pipeline and it’s still ongoing.

On Thursday in New Hampshire, she told a town hall audience that since she started the review process, she has been waiting for the administration to issue its stance before giving her own. But she said that the administration’s decision is overdue and that she “can’t wait much longer.”

In Portland, Clinton told the students to “just sit down” because they’d get her stance soon before asking them to move to the back of the room to avoid blocking others’ view.

“What I have said is that you’re going to hear from me shortly, but you’re not going to hear from me today,” she said.

Clinton addressed climate change in her Portland speech, but it wasn’t enough for the students, who said she’s been avoiding Keystone XL for too long.

“In all her appearances, she keeps saying, ‘I will tell you, I will tell you,’ and we’re here to ask for her stance,” said Jonah Watt, a Bowdoin sophomore. — Michael Shepherd


Voters to select Maine GOP’s preferred presidential nominee

In a win for direct democracy, the Maine Republican Party has changed the way it’ll select its presidential nominee: On March 5, voters will choose delegates to the national convention at regional caucuses instead of at the state convention.

This is a big change. Now, candidates will get the number of delegates proportional to their percentage of the statewide vote, but if one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes, they’ll get all of Maine’s delegates. Before, a Republican had to go to the state convention in late spring to have a say.

The change also creates a more controlled environment after the messy 2012 state convention, which caused headaches for the party after it was taken over by supporters of Ron Paul. At the national convention, the party split Maine’s 20 delegates evenly between Paul and Mitt Romney, who became the nominee.

Some Republicans called for a primary system after that. The new system isn’t quite a primary because voting will happen at meeting sites across the state. But like a primary, it will rely on paper ballots.

“Maine Republicans deserve to have a strong voice in nominating our next president, and this plan does just that,” Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett said in a statement. — Michael Shepherd


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Politicians travel the late-night circuit

It’s been a good couple of weeks to catch presidential hopefuls showing a lighter side on late-night TV.

Republican Donald Trump appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and one of his main rivals, Jeb Bush, was on the debut of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Vice President Joe Biden also had a heartfelt interview with Colbert where he discussed the death of his son, Beau, as he prepares to decide whether or not he’ll challenge Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Clinton also went on Fallon’s show, where the host, in character as Trump, “prepared” her for her interview. Her current top rival for the nomination, Bernie Sanders, also went on Colbert’s show. Republican Carly Fiorina will be with Fallon tonight.

Trump is due to appear Tuesday night with Colbert, who helped launch his show with jokes about the outspoken GOP candidate.

Who was the best? To me, Biden’s interview was the most compelling, while Sanders’ was the most substantive after challenging questions from Colbert. Trump and Clinton were funny, while Bush seemed stiff and uncomfortable.

The effects of these TV appearances may be greater than you think: It has been said that Richard Nixon thought that he may never have won the presidency if he hadn’t appeared on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in 1968.

“And I’ve had to live with that,” the show’s creator once said. — Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.