Poliquin sees opportunity to shape policy under President Trump

Good morning from Augusta, where today’s political news is led today by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s candid thoughts on presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — namely that he may win and let people like Poliquin guide his policy.

The freshman Republican from Maine’s 2nd District has largely avoided talking about the divisive billionaire’s campaign so far and hasn’t endorsed him. This could be partially because Poliquin is running a nationally targeted rematch against Democrat Emily Cain in November.

But Poliquin edged closer to explicit support last week, praising Trump without mentioning his name as the only “major job creator” in the race and for his opposition to free trade deals.

Poliquin is one of the most tightly messaged politicians in Maine. I’ve covered him for two years and it can be hard to get him to speak on uncomfortable topics or give stances on certain issues that he doesn’t raise himself.

But he discussed Trump quite candidly at a recent meeting of the conservative Informed Women’s Network in Portland, a recording of which was obtained by Bangor Daily News blogger Mike Tipping.

Tipping’s a spokesman for the progressive Maine People’s Alliance and Poliquin political adviser Brent Littlefield called him “a paid political hack of a dark money organization, running advertisements, subsidized by the BDN.”

But the 2-minute tape doesn’t lie and it’s very interesting.

The room of conservatives is clearly uneasy about a Trump candidacy, but Poliquin said “Trump’s going to win it all” before adding that’s he “not trying to make any prediction.”

Why? He says that Americans are fearful of social change, with fear about “personal safety” and their “economic future.”

But he notes the historic unfavorability ratings of Trump and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, saying “this is going to be a race to the bottom and we need to buckle up.”

Here’s where it gets juicier: Poliquin says Trump’s “not a policy person” and admits that he doesn’t know what “half” the candidate’s policies are and that he’ll leave much of the finer policy points to House Republicans.

“That’s why these meetings are happening now,” he said of Trump’s recent meetings with top House Republicans. “Don’t read about all the crap in the press.”

So, it’s clear that he sees those unclear policy views as a way for House Republicans to shape policy under President Trump. That’s pretty enlightening. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • The Portland Press Herald reported today that an undercover Maine game warden is accused by people convicted after a York County investigation of drinking, plying them with alcohol and inducing them to commit game violations in 2014. It’s similar to allegations leveled at the same warden in two-year operation in Allagash the same year. The Maine Warden Service and Gov. Paul LePage have criticized the paper’s reporting on the Allagash case, but the governor has said he’ll look into some of its findings.
  • The Sierra Club is busing people from Portland to a public meeting on a possible national monument in Maine’s North Woods in Orono on Monday. It’ll be moderated by U.S. Sen. Angus King and feature National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. The environmental group supports the park and state Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, is organizing another bus boarding in her home city.
  • Maine ranks 12th in the nation for its share of women elected to state office, according to the University of Massachusetts Boston. However, they’re still not close to equal players in the Maine Legislature, holding 54 of 186 seats — or 29 percent — in 2014, up from 18.5 percent in 1979. — Michael Shepherd

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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.