How LePage and Collins — in different ways — are helping mainstream Trump

Good morning from Portland, where I figured I’d write something today on what Gov. Paul LePage’s Friday endorsement of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump really means.

But it doesn’t mean all that much by itself, honestly: The governor’s a bombastic guy with a business background who uses the word “politician” as a slur against his perceived enemies and so is Trump. It fits.

The context of the endorsement, however, is important: Republican power brokers are under magnified pressure to capitulate to Trump’s increasing likelihood of being the nominee and get on the winning team.

How else can you explain LePage’s apparent change of heart on Trump? Six days before his endorsement, he was reportedly urging fellow Republican governors to condemn Trump’s politics.

What happened to change LePage’s tune in less than a week? Trump won Nevada and South Carolina. He’s up big in polls in Georgia, Massachusetts, Virginia, Michigan and North Carolina. Heck, he’s even crushing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — his biggest rival left — in Rubio’s home state.

Trump’s success was unthinkable when he rolled out his campaign in June. But his combative, us-against-them brand of populism has found staying power behind a call to ban Muslim travel to the U.S. and a vague promise to build a wall along the Mexican border paid for by Mexico.

Lots of Republican elites think this kind of politics will kill the party and are rallying around Rubio in a last-ditch effort to stop Trump. But it’s clear that it might be too late, so a lot of these same people may have to soon don a brave face and say life under President Trump won’t be so bad after all.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, is in many ways an anti-Trump: She values her moderate image and hasn’t endorsed another candidate after backing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race earlier this month after being Trump’s main target during the campaign.

But while Collins’ colleagues were saying last week that the prospect of Trump’s nomination “fills all of us with concern and dread” and would get the party “slaughtered,” she told Reuters, “I don’t think his nomination would be catastrophic” for Republicans’ chances of holding the Senate.

Then, after getting no real mainstream backing, Trump was endorsed on Friday by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. LePage, a Christie ally, came hours later. Jeff Sessions of Alabama became Trump’s first Senate endorser on Sunday.

And more should come, because Trump’s poll numbers aren’t slowing down. That steady popularity among a GOP electorate still sore from losing to Barack Obama with party insiders John McCain and Mitt Romney explains why LePage — and, to a degree, Collins — are girding themselves for Trump. — Michael Shepherd

Maine conservative group sets sights on regulatory reform

The Maine Heritage Policy Center again has targeted regulatory reform as a priority in Augusta, with plans to release “The Red Tape Guidebook” for lawmakers this week.

“We want to give that to legislators so they can start talking about these problems,” said Matt Gagnon, executive director of the conservative advocacy group.

If you remember back to 2011, regulatory reform was a top priority for the newly minted Gov. Paul LePage, who held “red tape” roundtables to hear from business leaders about how government could get out of their way. The resulting proposals to make Maine “business friendly” led off with “right-to-work” legislation, for which LePage fought multiple times, most recently in 2014 with his Open for Business Zone proposal.

The guidebook tackles that broad issue anew. MHPC researcher Liam Sigaud compiled the report that covers more than ten suggested areas for cutting back or modifying regulations. Aside from right-to-work, they are:

  • Eliminating the “certificate of need” process for certain health care providers, arguing the state approval stifles innovation in health care and drives up costs.
  • Culling Maine’s occupational licensing system, and making clear ways to transfer occupational licenses from other jurisdictions, especially for doctors.
  • Make the eviction process faster, to reduce the time landlords are out rent payments.
  • Exempt certain small farm producers from food safety requirements, for products like raw milk, that they argue are suited for large-scale agricultural operations.
  • Decrease the number of Maine employers who are subject to the state medical leave law, and make the law more restrictive. Employers with 15 or more employees are required to comply with the law.
  • Do away with Maine’s blue laws, that restrict shopping days, alcohol sales and remove state regulation of the all liquor sales, for which it oversees purchasing and warehousing. The group also suggests opening Sundays to hunting, which it argues will boost rural tourism.
  • Loosen oil spill reporting requirements to exclude any spills of 5 gallons or less.

The guidebook is due to hit lawmakers’ inboxes around the end of the week, Gagnon said. — Darren Fishell

Quick hits

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • “So I really don’t want to seem wierd but I saw the most beautiful girl this morning at the bk in Newport.” I don’t believe you.
  • A video gamer in Sanford urgently needs marijuana: “help a fellow gamer out , i will help you out as well,desparation should be obvious im on craigslist.”
  • A “newborn nanny” is offering services in and around Portland. It’s impressive to hold down a job at such a young age.
  • Somebody (a scammer, probably) is offering a “Large Lot 4 bedroom Apartment” — “fabulous home many features contact us for viewing.” — Michael Shepherd (h/t to reader Garrison Beck)
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.