Much ado about Cutler

Cynthia: Eliot Cutler was recently described by a Boston Globe columnist as a guy “who conveys the sense of someone who believes his superiority as a would-be governor is so self-evident that it’s a little wearying to have to point it out.”

When asked the spoiler question, Cutler apparently said of Gov. Paul LePage and Congressman Mike Michaud, “I’m spoiling this choice? How could anyone spoil this choice?”

I’m wondering Mike, is that what you call a “rhetorical question?”

Mike: You can call that any number of things. “Rhetorical” is probably the most charitable.

Cynthia: It reminds me of another rhetorical question from a show tune in The Sound of Music.

How do you solve a problem like Eliot?

Mike: The last thing we need in this race are showtune renditions! But your question makes an assumption, and I don’t think Eliot is a problem. Individuals have a right to run for office and make their case to the voters; that holds true for those running outside the party system.

Were Shawn Moody or Kevin Scott a problem in 2010? Or what about your non-party opponents in 2012?

Cynthia: Republicans love Eliot in this governor’s race. Only with him do they stand a chance of re-electing Paul LePage. And sure, independents have the right to run for office and offer alternative ideas. Angus King ran on the theme that Washington is broke, and he is a bridge. Everyone loves a bridge, right?

If I were a rich man I would skirt the primary process, too, and declare myself above the fray. But since you don’t like show tunes, here’s a proverb that captures your crush on Cutler: the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

Cutler’s theme is that LePage and Michaud are fools, though, and people who support them are morally and intellectually inferior. How will he “bridge” Democratic and Republican legislators after campaigning on how dumb they are?

How would Cutler get Republicans to vote for his tax reform proposal, for instance, after they worked feverishly to repeal a similar bill in 2010?

Mike: I have no idea how he will get Republicans on board, but I think you will find many of them supportive of tax reform if it is truly a bold, equitable, and transformational plan.  2010 wasn’t.  It included a number of gimmicks and winks towards favored industries – why again were lawyers exempt from the service tax?  That is why it was rejected by over 60% of Maine voters.

As always, the devil is in the details.  But Eliot’s glossy campaign literature will quickly lose its lustre if he gets the job.  Campaigning is easy; governing isn’t.

But the question you pose about Eliot bringing the parties together could equally be asked of Mike.  Talk is cheap: how is Mike going to do a better job than Eliot “working together” with Republicans after his attacks on Governor LePage?  Especially if one or both chambers swing back to Republican control?

Cynthia:  Oh, that’s easy. The polling tells a consistent story about how unhappy a large swath of Mainers are with Governor LePage, and his grandiosity makes it hard to be a legislator in Augusta. Lawmakers of all stripes will welcome Michaud’s inclusive leadership style and steady hand.

That’s if the story ends well, of course, and we all live happily ever after LePage. It’s not clear yet just how this thing will play out. The trailer hinted at a grand battle of wits causing a shake-up, but so far the debates have only reinforced what we already know about the candidates.

The long awaited debates, Sir Cutler’s chance to shine, brings us forth, alas, nothing more than a whine.

Mike: The poetry is certainly whimsical, but I think some of your thinking is wishful!  The polling story is a bit more nuanced that you make it out to be.  There are people who disagree with the Governor’s leadership style, but 55% of Mainers agree with his policy objectives.  I’d rather buy-in on goals than grandiose style points.

Plus, Eliot may or may not be gaining ground depending on which poll you read – they are hard to keep straight!  I will say Eliot has come across as thoughtful in some of the debates, daring to acknowledge points of agreement with his opponents.  The Governor has come across as funny, not angry, with his quip that “[e]ven a Frenchman can be taught to cool down” eliciting laughs.  Mike has come across as rehearsed which, while good in a play, isn’t great in a debate.

But sticking with your song and stage theme, will the final act bring any surprises before the curtain falls?

Cynthia: In a dramatic twist, we will hear from a king on a bridge in French quip:

Out, out, brief candle!

LePage’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.