Politics & Other Mistakes: The 3rd time is not the charm

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Throughout her long political career, Janet Mills has never been afraid to kick butt.

Until she decided to run for governor.

As soon as she announced her candidacy, Mills, the Democratic nominee and Maine’s attorney general, somehow transformed herself from a pit bull with jaws locked onto Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s hind end into a jellyfish, one that bears a disturbing resemblance to the formless blobs that served as the two previous Dem gubernatorial candidates.

Consider the following quotations:

“Our vision is a vision where we all get to succeed.”

“I have a vision for this state.”

The first quote belongs to Michael Michaud, the donkey party’s unsuccessful 2014 nominee. The second is from a recent Mills email to supporters. Neither was followed up with much in the way of specifics concerning whatever they were envisioning.

Another example:

“I plan to surround myself with the best and the brightest.”

“It’s time for change. It’s time for bold ideas. It’s time for a new direction.”

That first one is Libby Mitchell, the Democratic standard bearer who finished a distant third in the 2010 race for governor, and whose campaign never quite grasped that whole best-and-brightest concept. The second statement is from Mills, who has yet to propose any significant changes, any notable bold ideas or any discernible new directions.

Michaud: “One of the things I have been able to do is bring people together so we can move forward.”

Mills: “Today, right now and once and for all, reject the politics of fear and division and reaffirm in the politics of trust and hope and love.”

Michaud never moved forward, and Mills, whose standard approach to conflict has always been to punch her opponents in their mouths, is never going to convince anyone she’s suddenly been transformed into a hippie.

Mitchell: “The state needs to do more to promote tourism, not just along the coast but inland as well. The more rural parts of Maine need to benefit.”

Michaud: “The single most important thing we can do to build a strong economy is ensure that Maine children have access to a quality public education.”

Mills: “I believe we can build a state that’s prosperous from Kittery to Caribou. A state where our kids can find good jobs close to home, where everyone has access to high-quality, affordable health care, where every student can get a world-class education, and where every community has high-speed internet broadband.”

She forgot unicorns and fountains of free beer, probably just an oversight.

Maybe Mills should listen to herself: “We simply cannot afford to continue to do the same thing and expect different and better results.”

Democratic insiders have told me repeatedly that this year won’t be a repeat of the last two gubernatorial elections, because Mills will hold onto the party base that independent candidates eroded in 2010 and 2014. They point to private and public polls that show both unenrolled candidates, Alan Caron and Terry Hayes, stuck in the low single digits. They offer anecdotal evidence of Dem voters who deserted the party in the past two elections, who now pledge to stick with Mills no matter how wimpy she gets.

However reassuring for Democratic hopes that might be (not very, actually), there are other numbers that indicate Mills is generating even less excitement among the party faithful than did her two uninspiring predecessors.

A comparison of 42-day post-primary campaign finance reports from the last three gubernatorial elections shows Mills trailing both Mitchell and Michaud in fundraising at this point in the campaign. She’s raised a little over a million dollars, while Mitchell (a Clean Election candidate) had received almost $1.5 million in 2010 and Michaud was approaching $2 million in 2014.

That’s a significant financial gap that might reflect an equal deficit in the enthusiasm column.

Mills still has time to pull her campaign together, because she has at least one major advantage. She’s running against Republican Shawn Moody, who has roughly the same grasp of the complexities of state government as my dog does of quantum mechanics. On the other hand, Moody comes across as a forthright regular guy, while Mills seems intent on recasting herself as a wishy-washy career politician.

Mills replaced her campaign manager last week, which might be seen as a small sign she realizes the mistake she’s making. But the new guy is the same one who ran Mitchell’s 2010 campaign, so probably not. And the longer she follows the Mitchell-Michaud playbook, the closer she gets to extending the Democrats’ string of gubernatorial election losses to three in a row.

If you have something to say about my opinions, you can email me at aldiamon@herniahill.net. But don’t be wimpy.

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