Eliot Cutler's Permanent Campaign In Maine
If Eliot Cutler's late surge had peaked just a few days sooner, or if his campaign had focused on early voters while his opponents were still enmeshed in their primaries, or if he had spent a bit more than the $1.6 million he dropped on the race, he might be governor right now instead of Paul LePage.
Cutler hasn't forgotten how close that election was, and seems determined to stay in public view and keep his options open for future campaigns. He has been holding a series of "thank you" events throughout the state to keep in touch with supporters, maintains a facebook page with almost 7,000 fans (which I erred in not noticing when writing this recent post) and on February 28 held a half-hour telephone town hall with the group No Labels and former Florida governor Charlie Crist.
Cutler seems to have maintained his close ties with some in Maine's media establishment as well. The announcement of his town hall garnered a favorable front page article in the Portland Press Herald that included a link to his Facebook page, instructions on how to sign up for the event and the telephone number and Web site for the organization.
The town hall itself, which I listened in on (along with more than 7,000 other people, according to the organizers), wasn't very interesting. Crist, despite his higher national profile, was the co-star to Cutler for this Maine-based event. The questions, which were pre-screened, were all softballs along the lines of "I love your message. How can people get more involved?" and "Do you think it will take a more bipartisan model to solve education issues?"
No questions were asked about the growing pro-union protests across the country or about LePage's budget or environmental rollback proposals. The closest Cutler came to discussing a current issue was when he expressed support for LePage's choice of Steven Bowen to head the Maine Department of Education. Bowen, formerly of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, is often at odds with the Maine Education Association, a group with which Cutler maintained a very public rivalry during his campaign.
Cutler also didn't discuss his own future political plans, although he did announce that he intends to form his own group in Maine similar to the national No Labels. Such a group could give Cutler some of the advantages that political parties provide for other candidates and could easily form the nucleus of his next campaign.