Obama won twice in Maine, but his politics took backward steps

Good Martin Luther King Jr. Day morning from Augusta. Take an hour to listen to a speech he gave at Bowdoin College in 1964. The State House is closed on this federal and state holiday and the Daily Brief is late and short.

It’s also the final Monday under President Barack Obama, who will turn his office over to Republican President-elect Donald Trump on Friday.

Maine was good to Obama at the ballot box: He surprised himself by beating Hillary Clinton here in the 2008 Democratic caucuses, then won Maine easily in his two general elections in 2008 and 2012.

Much was made of Trump’s five visits to Maine during his 2016 campaign. Trump still lost the state to Democrat Hillary Clinton, but in a rare and historic twist, he grabbed one of Maine’s four Electoral College votes by winning the 2nd Congressional District.

Obama has only visited Maine five times going all the way back to his first campaign, starting with a rally in Bangor ahead of the 2008 caucuses, including a 2010 family vacation to Mt. Desert Island and ending with a jaunt to Portland to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud in 2014.

Michaud, of course, lost that race to Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who holds one of 12 gubernatorial seats and more than 1,000 state and federal offices lost by Democrats during Obama’s tenure, according to Fox News.

The 2nd District was the area of Maine that was crucial in twice electing LePage. In 2014, the district also elected U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the first Republican to represent the district in 20 years.

In the Maine Legislature, Obama aided Democrats to a 96-54 majority in the House of Representatives and a 21-14 edge in the Senate in the 2008 elections. Now Democrats have a 77-71 House majority with Republicans up 18-17 in the Senate.

Obama was certainly good at the ballot box, but he couldn’t lift his party up in Maine and in most places across the country. We’ll only just begin soon to see if that course will hold in the era of Trump. — Michael Shepherd

Correction: An earlier version of this post had the wrong number of Republicans in the Maine House of Representatives. It was 72 just after the election, but it’s now 71 after Rep. Kevin Battle of South Portland unenrolled from the Republican Party.

Quick hits

  • LePage and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin spoke ahead of an anti-abortion rally in Augusta on Saturday. The Republicans appeared at a Mass before the Maine Right to Life Committee’s “Hands Around the Capitol” rally in Augusta on Saturday, according to the Kennebec Journal.
  • Maine’s animal protection laws were again ranked third in the nation by an advocacy group. The Animal Legal Defense Fund gave high marks to Maine, which also ranked third in 2015. That’s because of the state’s robust penalties for animal cruelty, increased penalties for repeat abusers and the allowance of animals to be included in protective orders. But they say Maine could make improvements, including an animal abuser registry and stronger felony provisions for neglect.
  • Poliquin is holding a mystery press conference today in Bangor. On Friday, the 2nd District congressman’s office teased a vague “announcement” to come at 11:30 a.m. at the United Farmer Veterans of America building. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Want to see Chris Cousins try to kiss a smelt?

How could you refuse? My State House pal is featured prominently in this video from BDN photojournalist-troubadour Troy Bennett documenting a Saturday night of smelting along the Cathance River in Bowdoinham. He’s got your soundtrack.

Chris said they got eight fish, but “Troy and his bassist felt bad for the first one and threw it back when I wasn’t present.” So, they ended up frying seven at 2:30 a.m.

Our intrepid reporter’s review? “I couldn’t believe how good they tasted. Like better than scallops, which are my favorite.” — 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.