Paul LePage, the Republican governor of Maine, might have worried that his political hopes were buried by a old-fashioned blizzard. Instead he was carried to victory by an old-fashioned political wave. The fiery first-term conservative won narrowly over Democrat Mike Michaud Tuesday night.
Michaud, a six-term congressman from northern Maine, almost became the first openly gay governor in the history of the United States but was unable to fend of the combination of LePage and independent Eliot Cutler, who announced a quasi-withdrawal from the race last week, saying his supporters “should vote their conscience.” Michaud faced a lot of skepticism from center-left voters over his relatively socially conservative record in Congress that was partially eased by Cutler’s withdrawal, but it was not enough for the Democrat.
LePage’s best hope for victory had long been to keep Cutler in the running and divide his opposition. The Republican had struggled to break 40 percent in the polls as a series of controversial remarks, including saying President Obama “hates white people,” alienated many moderate voters in a Democratic-leaning state. LePage owed his election in 2010 to a split opposition, as he won a tight three-way race over Cutler and Democrat Libby Mitchell. He won then with less than 38 percent of the vote, the smallest plurality of any winning gubernatorial candidate in the country.
This year, though, LePage won even with Cutler’s quasi-withdrawal. Carried by a massive Republican wave, LePage ended up receiving roughly 47 percent of the vote and pulling off a victory that few thought would have been possible only days before the election.