Good morning from Augusta, where a large group of Republican legislators and activists is set to endorse presidential hopeful Ted Cruz on Thursday.
Between 40 and 50 legislators will hold a noon news conference at the State House to announce support for the Texas senator, who won the Iowa caucuses on Monday, finishing ahead of runner-up Donald Trump and the third-place Marco Rubio.
It’s the first large-scale round of endorsements in Maine so far in the unsettled Republican race here. Trump led the field in the only Maine poll released in October and has a large lead in neighboring New Hampshire, whose primaries are Tuesday.
Little information on the Cruz event was released yesterday by Maine House Republicans spokesman Rob Poindexter, but he said Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls and Reps. Dale Crafts of Lisbon and Joel Sketkis of Canaan were organizing it.
In an interview, Crafts said Cruz has the money and organization to win the White House, praising the candidate’s outsider pitch.
“I’m a little tired of the establishment myself,” Crafts said. “He’s certainly not the establishment.”
This probably won’t be the only round of legislative endorsements: House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, is chairing Rubio’s Maine campaign and Poindexter tweeted yesterday that the Florida senator has “as many or more” supporters in the House as Cruz does.
But these legislators are Cruzin’, so here’s your soundtrack.
Gallup: Maine no longer a Democratic state
Maine was one of three states that Democrats lost in the polling firm’s surveys of all 50 states, along with Pennsylvania and Michigan.
This year’s Gallup survey of nearly 1,100 Mainers found that 42.5 percent identified as Republicans or leaning Republican, compared to just 38.8 percent for Democrats. It was a flip from Gallup’s 2014 numbers, which pegged Democrats at 43.6 percent support to Republicans’ 38.4 percent.
There wasn’t as much change in how Mainers saw themselves politically, though: This year, 35.4 percent saw themselves as conservatives, 36.5 percent as moderates and 24.2 percent as liberals, compared to 34.3 percent, 37 percent and 24.9 percent in 2014, respectively.
Brent Littlefield, a GOP political consultant who does work for Gov. Paul LePage, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District and the Maine Republican Party, cited the survey as evidence that his party’s conservative stances “are resonating with voters.”
But Maine has always been friendly to certain Republicans. Look at U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and former Sen. Olympia Snowe — moderates who sit among Maine’s most popular politicians this generation — for proof.
Democrats last won statewide office in 2006, although you could make the argument that U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent and former two-term governor who caucuses with Democrats, is close enough.
But they’ve still carried every presidential election here since 1992. Republicans think things may have changed enough to flip Maine in 2016, but that remains to be seen. — Michael Shepherd
- Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Emily Cain was endorsed earlier this week by the Professional Firefighters of Maine. The union criticized U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, for not sponsoring a bill that provided lifetime health benefits to first responders from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. But Poliquin voted for the bill in December.
- A controversial energy amendment from Collins and King passed the Senate on Wednesday. It would change policy to “reflect the carbon neutrality” of burning wood and biomass products for heat and electricity, which environmental groups called “scientifically indefensible” in a Tuesday letter to senators. — Michael Shepherd
- How the state of LePage’s state has changed in a year — Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News
- Maine school leaders confront projected cuts to state aid next year — Nick McCrea, BDN
- Conflict erupts over how Maine should deal with transgender students — Beth Brogan, BDN
- Maine court to consider appeal in bear baiting election dispute — Judy Harrison, BDN
- Maine bill aims to prevent gun bans for public housing tenants — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
- Who will Maine’s Rand Paul supporters turn to in 2016? — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- LePage nominates 3 to Land for Maine’s Future board — Kevin Miller, Portland Press Herald
- Virginia murder trial may become part of national debate on jail informants — Tom Jackman, Washington Post
Best of Maine’s Craigslist
- Hat tip to Senate Republicans spokeswoman Jamie Logan for flagging this toy chimpanzee being sold with a playpen for $25 in Biddeford. “The number of photos is truly disturbing,” Logan said. Agreed. There are 23 photos of the chimp in different poses, including many close-ups.
- A man thought a young lady in the check-out line in the Waterville Wal-Mart wearing “a belly shirt and PJs” and “buying chips and gummies” was “so hot.” Actually, it’s February, so her midriff was probably cold.
- Someone in Waterboro is offering “some kinde of sword” shaped like a lightning bolt. OK. — Michael Shepherd