U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin further distanced himself from 2016 presidential politics on Tuesday, telling a Boston gathering that he won’t run to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
It’s not much of a surprise, since the Republican from Maine’s 2nd District has neither endorsed a candidate in the race led by bombastic front-runner Donald Trump nor said who he caucused for in March and has been cagey on questions about the race.
On Tuesday, Poliquin was in Boston for a meeting with The New England Council, where he told regional businesspeople that he won’t be a delegate to the convention in July, where Republicans will pick a nominee.
It’s usually not much more than a formality, but this year is different: Trump isn’t on track to win enough delegates to capture the nomination outright, giving his two remaining opponents, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to win the nomination at what would be the first contested convention since 1976.
It’s not a rule, but at state conventions, participants often nominate senior party officials — including governors and members of Congress — to be delegates to national conventions, where they cast votes for the state’s preferred hopeful. Essentially, Poliquin’s not running for one of those spots at this month’s state convention.
Poliquin’s political adviser, Brent Littlefield, said the congressman is “focused on Maine issues from helping deal with the heroin epidemic to securing Maine jobs,” and he doesn’t need to be a delegate to further those aims.
But there’s deeper context here: Poliquin’s 2016 re-election race against Democrat Emily Cain has been heavily targeted by both parties, which should make it one of this year’s biggest House races nationally.
As a part of that, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats’ campaign arm, has hammered Poliquin on the presidential race, saying he’s “hiding under his desk” and that he faces “a nightmarish scenario” of backing either Trump or Cruz because of their low popularity.
A March poll from Critical Insights showed that Mainers aren’t fond of the top presidential candidates: Trump was deemed untrustworthy by 64 percent of respondents, but Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and Cruz weren’t far behind at 55 percent and 52 percent, respectively.
If Poliquin supported one of the Republicans, it could mean being tarred by their positions in attack ads. Now, he’ll continue to be dogged by questions about the race, but he’s clearly decided that’s a better option for now.