When Donald Trump hits the stage at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Wednesday afternoon, he will be attempting to do what no other presidential candidate has done in Maine since Richard Nixon in 1972, turning the Pine Tree state from blue to red.
The North & South
It’s certainly no secret that northern and southern Maine bend in opposite directions on the political spectrum. So much so, it’s like there are two Maine’s. The failed bear referendum and this year’s gun control initiative both originated in the south and both are heavily opposed in the North.
The urban centers of the south have long been Democrat strongholds, while the rural north tends to lean Republican. A quick look at Maine’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts illustrate this. With Maine’s population heavily concentrated in the south, the presidential math seems like a no-brainer, right? Not so fast.
This election year feels a whole lot different to me than any in recent memory. One of the main themes I hear is the “anti-establishment” sentiment on both sides of the aisle. People are disappointed with those they have elected not keeping promises, abandoning party principles and are flat out sick and tired of it. Are voters identifying solely with the elephant and donkey or are they willing to cross party lines in pursuit of something different in a system that doesn’t seem to be working for working folks? Stir in strong ideology differences within each party and the plot thickens.
Trump may have lost the caucus to Senator Ted Cruz here in Maine, but I find it hard to believe any Republican or conservative independent will go for Hillary Clinton in the north. Likewise, Democrats can always depend on tons of support in the south.
While many voters will hold their nose and vote the party line in both northern and southern Maine, the real question is how Bernie Sanders supporters feel about voting for Hillary Clinton and whether Trump can tempt them.
The Sanders Effect
Both Republicans and Democrats have seen their share of surprises during the primary contests. I don’t think anyone foresaw Trump leaving the huge GOP field in the dust or Bernie Sanders mounting such a strong challenge to Hillary Clinton’s presumed waltz into the Democratic nomination.
Both Trump and Sanders ran on an outsider platform. While the capitalist and socialist couldn’t be farther apart on how they would implement policy and pay for it, their supporters are equally steadfast “anti-establishment”. This is key for Trump’s campaign in an attempt to woo Democrats in November.
Who said this….Trump or Sanders?
“Everywhere I look, I see the possibilities of what our country could be. But we can’t solve any of these problems by relying on the politicians who created them. We will never be able to fix a rigged system by counting on the same people who rigged it in the first place. The insiders wrote the rules of the game to keep themselves in power and in the money……..
…so together we can fix the system for ALL Americans. Importantly, this includes fixing all of our many disastrous trade deals. Because it’s not just the political system that’s rigged. It’s the whole economy.
It’s rigged by big donors who want to keep down wages.
It’s rigged by big businesses who want to leave our country, fire our workers, and sell their products back into the U.S. with absolutely no consequences for them.
It’s rigged by bureaucrats who are trapping kids in failing schools.
It’s rigged against you, the American people.”
It could go either way, couldn’t it? However, it’s an excerpt from a post that Trump specifically reaches out to Sanders supporters on the official Donald J. Trump Facebook page.
By all accounts, Sanders supporters are very passionate about putting an outsider in the White House. With the Sanders campaign grinding to a halt, will they accept the perceived “establishment” Clinton or will there be a mutiny?
Lawyers, Guns & Money
I believe a lot of folks are getting tired of electing lawyers and the lawyer speak that comes with them. Trump has positioned himself to be what a lot of folks are looking for. Right or wrong, left or right. It doesn’t matter. He is saying what a lot of people want to hear. Remember, it worked for President Obama.
In Maine, Trump may have the biggest edge on jobs and economy issues, as well as the raging debate on gun control. These are very important issues to Mainers, especially right now.
I’d argue that Bangor could be perceived as the Mason-Dixon Line of the two Maine’s. Trump can probably count on the majority of Republican voters north of Bangor, but needs to ensure that the conservatives on the fence will get on board too. He also needs to court disenfranchised Democrats from the south and the independents are everywhere.
Trump may be betting that Bangor is the center of it all and the key to how he turns a blue state red.
I’ve decided to update this post to clarify the opening line for readers who are mistakenly interpreting that I imply the last time Maine voted for a Republican presidential nominee was Nixon in 1972. This is not what I wrote or meant to imply. I had a discussion with a BDN editor about this last night and it turns out she was correct in readers missing the distinction.
What I wrote is the last time Maine turned from blue to red in choosing a presidential candidate was for Nixon in 1972. In the previous cycle, Maine awarded it’s electoral votes for a Democrat, Hubert Humphrey.
Since Nixon’s Maine electoral win in 1972, every Republican thereafter inherited a red state by electoral votes through George Bush, Sr. Not since Nixon in 1972 has a Republican been awarded Maine’s 4 electoral votes when the previous winner was a Democrat.
Thus, this “turning” blue to red is very significant point. A party candidate receiving the nod after following a previous candidate of the same party is not. Afterall, the table has been set for them.