What will a Trump presidency look like? Some say, look to Maine.
Governor Paul LePage has proudly proclaimed he was Trump, before Trump.
“A lot of people say we are alike,” the Republican Governor told a crowd before a Trump rally last fall. “He’s a little shy, but I’m working on him.”
Both Trump and LePage are businessmen, and campaigned on the idea of running government like a business.
Both have blunt speaking styles, abhor political correctness, and regularly make headlines for controversial, and sometimes offensive, comments.
“There’s so many similarities,” said Lance Dutson, a longtime Republican political operative in Maine.
“They’ve both attained political power through leveraging the anger of the voter,” said Dutson. “Both Republicans and Democrats have played by the rules – and then LePage has come onto the court and decided to ignore the referees.”
The result, according to Dutson, has been dysfunction. He points to a lack of cooperation from the administration with legislative oversight, and a combative relationship with the press.
“I never thought I’d see the day when a sitting Governor could dismiss the press in the way that Paul LePage does,” he said.
Dutson said he worries about the long-term effect figures like LePage and Trump could have on the Republican Party – while other members of the party have hope that both LePage and Trump are steering them in the right direction.
“Governor LePage has turned the state around, financially,” said Patti Gagne, chair of the Androscoggin County GOP.
She points to the state’s $49 million revenue surplus as proof that LePage’s fiscal conservatism is helping the state.
“We’re not in the black, where we were in the red for so long,” said Gagne. “I have faith that Donald Trump is going to do the very same thing for America.”
The LePage administration has touted significant welfare reforms, that have saved the state millions of dollars.
But Dutson is quick to point out that overall, Maine’s business ranking has remained the same.
“After six years of Paul LePage, Maine is still ranked 49th in the nation for business climate,” he said.
Gagne said both Trump and LePage have found ways to speak directly to voters, and gain support: LePag has done a circuit of town hall style meetings across Maine, while Trump tweets
Both Dutson and Gagne agree Trump and LePage are cut from the same cloth.
“Political correctness is not part of who they are,” said Gagne.
But there’s disagreement about how that governing style looks.
“I think Governor LePage has done horrible damage to the Maine brand,” said Dutson.