Report: Trump making Maine an early focal point in 2016 campaign

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) after LePage introduced him at a campaign rally in Portland, Maine March 3, 2016.  REUTERS/Joel Page

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Maine Gov. Paul LePage after LePage introduced him at a Portland rally in March. (REUTERS – Joel Page)

Republican Donald Trump plans to make Maine a focus of his presidential campaign alongside other states that traditionally favor Democrats, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

It’s yet another a sign that the bombastic billionaire’s campaign is eschewing political tradition, prioritizing Maine and states including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where Democrats have won in at least six straight presidential races.

Maine hasn’t voted Republican since 1988, which makes likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the favorite here as she enters a general election race with Trump.

But there are worrying signs for Democrats, and Maine’s one of two states that splits Electoral College votes by congressional district, giving Trump an opportunity to win the 2nd District, represented by Republican Bruce Poliquin.

Nationally, Trump and Clinton would be the least popular presidential nominees in 10 election cycles, according to FiveThirtyEight. This seems true in Maine, too, where a March poll from Critical Insights found that 64 percent of those surveyed found Trump untrustworthy with Clinton not far behind at 55 percent.

Clinton got 43 percent of support in that poll to Trump’s 34 percent, but a Morning Consult analysis gave Trump a slight edge in the state, albeit within the survey’s margin of error.

These could all be reasons why Trump’s making a play in Maine, where his anti-free trade agreement sentiment — rare for a prominent national Republican — could play well to voters who are anxious over paper mill closures and who have elected another outspoken Republican, Gov. Paul LePage, a Trump backer.

Quoting anonymous campaign sources, AP reported that Trump plans to hire state directors in Maine and more than a dozen other states by June 1 in a bid to catch up with Clinton’s more advanced operation. His spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

If it’s true, it’s a play that we haven’t seen from Republican presidential hopefuls here. In 2008, John McCain made a late October bid, dispatching operatives and surrogates to Maine. George W. Bush had a team here in 2004, but he was an incumbent.

Trump made a quick trip to Maine before the March Republican caucuses, which were won by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. But Trump had next to no organization here, so the general election could be a different story.

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.