What’s the state of Maine’s presidential race?

Good morning from Portland, where I’m recovering from two days of presidential politics in Maine: We got a day of the Donald Trump experience on Thursday and a visit from Democratic underdog Bernie Sanders on Wednesday.

And the theater isn’t over: Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, one of three remaining Trump rivals, will be at the University of Maine in Orono today.

That looks like all of the big-name visits to Maine ahead of this weekend’s presidential caucuses, which Republicans have set for Saturday and Democrats on Sunday. Here are guides to how they’ll work and where Republicans and Democrats will caucus.

Handicapping this race is difficult because there has been little public polling in Maine: Sanders led frontrunner Hillary Clinton by 15 points in a February poll and Trump led in a September poll — which now is ancient in political terms.

But little has changed in the national race to knock Trump and Sanders down in Maine, and there are few reason to think that they won’t win here this weekend.

The Republican front-runner has the endorsement of Gov. Paul LePage and momentum, especially in New England: He has won New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont, the only states in the region to vote so far.

Sanders, while he’s favored to lose the Democratic nomination to Clinton, romped to victory in New Hampshire and his home state of Vermont, losing narrowly to Clinton in Massachusetts. He has organized in Maine like nobody else and has considerable grassroots support.

Still, Clinton has a chance to pick up plenty of Maine’s 30 delegates because Democrats allocate them proportionally and she has support from many of the state’s elite Democrats.

Her campaign organized quickly in Maine after the New Hampshire primaries. But the highest-profile Clinton surrogate in the state so far has been figure skating medalist Michelle Kwan, who works for the campaign, and there’s no sign that Hillary or Bill Clinton will come to Maine before Sunday.

It also seems that Republican hopeful Marco Rubio is looking elsewhere. He released a list of more than 30 endorsers on Thursday, when he had an op-ed in the BDN. But his campaign faces what may be a do-or-die test in his home state of Florida — where Trump has a big polling lead — on March 15.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who continues to look for a way leap over Cruz and Rubio to become the anti-Trump Republican candidate, has not visited Maine in advance of the caucuses despite second-place finishes in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Kasich seems focused on winning the primary in his home state on March 15, something he must do convincingly to remain viable. In Maine, his campaign has been largely invisible.

One caveat, though, is that caucuses can be hard to predict. But given what we know, it’s hard to bet against Trump and Sanders. — Michael Shepherd

Cohen: ‘Astounding’ that GOP candidates advocating torture

Former Republican U.S. Sen. William Cohen of Maine condemned his party’s presidential candidates’ foreign policy stances in a Thursday interview with CNN.

Trump, Cruz and Rubio are unabashed hawks: Trump has called on the military to “take out” terrorists’ families and said he’d bring back methods of torture, Cruz has said the U.S. should “carpet bomb” the terrorist Islamic state “into oblivion” and that waterboarding isn’t torture and Rubio hasn’t ruled out torture.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden has said the military may refuse to follow Trump’s orders if he was president, which the candidate rejected at a Thursday debate.

Cohen, who was secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, said the U.S. could face a Nuremberg-style trial over war crimes if these ideas came to fruition. He said it’s “astounding” that torture is part of Republicans’ platforms and said “we have to be very careful what we’re saying” to the rest of the world.

“The notion that we would attack and kill the families of terrorists is something that contravenes everything the United States stands for in this world of, now, disorder,” he said. “To the extent that we’re talking about carpet-bombing whole communities in order to get at some terrorists, that too would contravene our sense of what is expected from a world power.” — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • I guess this person didn’t get the memo that LePage and Trump are tight now, but somebody from Alabama said Maine’s governor and his governor are “nothing more than Puppets of the GOP Establishment which The American People and Trump are going to destroy.”
  • Someone in Brunswick wonders if you can hypnotize people: “Well I’m a skeptic and always wanted the opportunity to try it.”
  • “Do you want to get paid to listen to music and dance?” Here’s a job where you do those things in the cold outside a Liberty Tax location in Brunswick.
  • No snark here — this is really nice: Someone’s looking to surprise their aunt, who is recovering from spinal surgery, with a new dog after her beloved dog, Sunny, died recently. Let’s help her out, people. — Michael Shepherd
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.