The conservative movement turns its eyes to Maine

Something refreshing has begun to happen in the state of Maine.

Once a Republican stronghold – Maine voted against FDR in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944 (in 1936 it was one of just two states to do so) – Maine has been a lost cause for conservatives in the past decade or so.  Yet lately, the conservative movement has begun to invest serious energy in Maine.

The Heritage Foundation made a stop in Maine on its ‘Fiscal Wake-Up Tour’, educating Americans on the costs of America’s entitlement obligations.  Heritage has also reached out to Maine’s senators regarding health care policy. Conservatives have also forced liberals to spend money and counter-attack. For example, a left wing organization is actually on the ground advocating daily for Obamacare.

In 2009, the National Taxpayers Union helped put a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) referendum on the ballot. At the eleventh hour, however, union money poured into Maine advertising against TABOR, successfully killing what had been polling as a popular measure throughout the preceding summer. In this effort, TABOR proponents were outspent by more than six to one.

Things are beginning to look up, though. Less than two months ago, Americans for Prosperity launched a Maine Chapter, which is devoted to recruiting and training activists in favor of economic growth.  Just last month, Marco Rubio, staunch conservative and Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida, paid a visit to the Maine Heritage Policy Center. Additionally, talk radio host Howie Carr spent a day with conservative Maine congressional candidates Jason Levesque and Dean Scontras—both recently endorsed by Mitt Romney, news that made National Review.   Conservative Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and free market strategist Grover Norquist also have visited Maine in the past year.

There’s a reason all these political and opinion leaders have traveled here: they realize Maine is winnable for conservatives. Big Labor must realize this, too. That’s why it spends lots of money to defeat pro-growth and limited-government referenda, and pours substantial cash into the campaign coffers of Maine’s Democrat congressional representatives.

For example, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-02), who now has his first serious challenger in Levesque since 2002, has a PAC donor list that reads like a Who’s Who of Big Labor.  In second quarter fundraising reports just released, Levesque’s grassroots efforts have earned him more individual donors from Maine than Michaud, yet the Congressman has maintained a comfortable fundraising lead thanks to PAC money.

Similarly, in the June 8 primary, Maine’s Republican gubernatorial candidates received a total of 130,000 votes, compared to 120,000 for the Democratic candidates – even though both races were hotly contested, multi-candidate primaries with no obvious frontrunners. The Maine GOP, in fact, had its highest primary turnout since 1952. Perhaps even more telling, a Maine GOP-led people’s veto referendum to reject Democrat tax reform legislation that shifted the tax burden without reducing it, won with overwhelming support.