Less than a week before endorsing him, Gov. Paul LePage urged fellow Republican governors in a closed-door meeting to condemn presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, the New York Times reported Saturday.
It’s a schizophrenic twist made public just after LePage’s Friday endorsement of Trump, the billionaire businessman who the governor has criticized in the past, and a potential example of the campaign horse-trading over the past week.
At a meeting last Saturday with Republican governors in Washington, the Times reported, LePage “erupted in frustration” over Trump’s rise, urging governors to draft a letter “to the people” that condemned Trump and his politics.
His idea, however, didn’t go anywhere. Then, on Friday, LePage became the second governor to endorse Trump hours after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who LePage backed and campaigned for until he dropped out of the presidential race earlier this month.
Brent Littlefield, LePage’s political adviser, declined comment on why LePage changed his mind, but Christie — who helped LePage get re-elected in 2014 as chairman of the Republican Governors Association — is the apparent nexus of the endorsement.
LePage told conservative radio host Howie Carr that he hasn’t talked to Trump, but discussed the endorsement with Christie this week. The two Republican governors apparently decided “we could do a lot worse” — meaning electing Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
He compared his bombastic style, business background and political outsider status with Trump’s, saying “I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular, so I think I should support him since we’re one of the same cloth.”
It’s worth noting that LePage has criticized Trump on Carr’s show before: In January, he said that while Trump is “pushing in the right direction” on certain issues, LePage doesn’t see how Trump wouldn’t increase the national debt. Earlier this month, Maine’s governor said he was “not a big fan” of Trump.
On Friday, LePage’s support for Trump was somewhat qualified: He told Carr that while he wanted to see a governor ascend to the presidency, “unfortunately, the American people aren’t going for a governor this year.”
LePage said that while Ohio Gov. John Kasich is still in the race, he won’t be able to win and he called Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — the two likeliest alternatives to Trump — “two of the people that create the gridlock” in Washington.
“I’m not going to say I agree with everything he’s saying,” LePage said of Trump, “but one thing he is bringing out that nobody else has brought out — he’s showing a vision for the future.
“He wants to make America great again,” he said, cribbing Trump’s motto.