Mike Michaud vs. Paul LePage is now a must-see 2014 race

Mike Michaud, a Congressman running for Governor of Maine in 2014, came out as gay over the weekend. (The title of the post was “Yes, I’m gay. Now let’s get our state back on track.”) Michaud is potentially winning the race — which, yes, is 12 months away over LePage, who could be the most colorful character in modern American politics (not North American; that might be Rob Ford).

I love how Michaud has to hit the lobster bake circuit to win in Maine. If elected, Michaud would be the first openly-gay Governor ever elected (Jim McGreevey came out after being elected in New Jersey).

Now to LePage for a second or two: he’s perhaps most famous for claiming that President Obama “hates white people,” but he has a series of other quotes, including defining a Democratic State Senator as “giving it to the people without vaseline,” indicating he wants a legislature that “doesn’t speak back,” and noting that citizens of his own state are being “played for patsies.” He grew up impoverished with 15 brothers and sisters, but is now often held up as the face of the GOP’s current moral bankruptcy. He’s undeniably bombastic, and this is one of the better long reads on his background and politics.

The depressing thing is, LePage should be the answer to GOP prayers: because of his upbringing, he can claim connectedness to poor, fringe groups — which is something that’s very hard for Republicans these days. He is loud, boisterous, has an interesting story, and talks straight. Chris Christie is renowned for those same things. LePage is not. If you do a blind test with Maine voters and describe LePage policies without using his name, the approval ratings are about 60 percent or higher. When you use his name? It’s about 40 percent or lower. He’s in trouble, and not just from Michaud — there’s also Eliot Cutler.

LePage can be fiscally aggressive, typically stands to the right on most issues, and blasted a teachers union for endorsing a same-sex marriage question in his state. (Gay marriage is legal in Maine.) LePage hasn’t (to my knowledge) come out and said a lot against the gay rights movement, so he has that going for him in terms of Michaud’s recent coming out. Michaud and Cutler are starting the aggressive play by talking about LePage’s 82 vetoes, only four of which were over-ridden by the Maine legislature.

The nepotism has been a problem for LePage as well, as has his relationship with the mainstream GOP (same with Christie again!), the concealed carry permit, and well, OK… let’s just admit it. He’s pretty much considered one of the worst Governors in America. Thing is, though: a three-way race might actually benefit him.

So we have a newly-outed liberal, a third-party who can legitimately contend, and one of the most ridiculously outspoken Governors of the past 20 or so years, who was homeless for a portion of his youth? This is definitely one of the more interesting gubernatorial knuckle-ups of 2014. Let’s hope the race sees a little bit of that … ahem … Maine Justice.

Ted Bauer