Maine's controversial governor, Paul LePage, has been in office less than three months, but he's already galvanized progressives, lost the support of two-thirds of self-declared moderates, and reportedly alienated leading figures in his own party, including party chair Charlie Webster and, now, nearly half of the G.O.P. Senate delegation.
Readers need little review of Mr. LePage's ill-advised actions and remarks, as they've been sufficiently outrageous as to have him in the national media spotlight on an almost weekly basis. From telling the NAACP to kiss his butt on the eve of the M.L.K weekend to joking (ho-ho) that the reason he supported the return of the banned substance BPA to baby's bottles and sippy cups was that the worst thing that could happen is that some women would "grow little beards" to marking the anniversary of the infamous Triangle Fire by announcing he would dismantle a mural of Maine's labor history hanging in the Department of Labor to kicking off Sunshine Week by denouncing users of Maine's Freedom of Access Act as being engaged in "internal terrorism," Mr. LePage has appeared hell-bent on making as many enemies as possible as quickly as he can.
One of the biggest questions in Maine politics has been whether or not Maine's legislative Republicans -- who control both chambers of the State House -- would support his unpopular and often pugnacious agenda. In ordinary times, there would be no question that they would not: the state party has been a bastion of old fashioned Yankee Republicanism as personified by Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Cohen, and Olympia Snowe. But last year there were signs that the moderates may have lost control to the pitchfork-bearing Tea Party sympathizers who nominated LePage and passed a party platform calling for, among other things, vigilance against a "one world government."
Now it's becoming clear that many Republican legislators will abandon LePage's ship before he steers them into any more icebergs. Last month every Republican on a key committee rejected his unpopular BPA campaign. Last week, Senate Republicans met with the governor about, as he put it afterward "zipping my mouth and not offending them." And next week, the Bangor Daily News just revealed, an OpEd piece blasting the governor will be published signed by at least eight G.O.P senators. "We feel compelled to express our discomfort and dismay with the tone and spirit of some of the remarks coming from him,” it reportedly reads. "Were this an isolated incident and not a pattern, we would bite our collective tongues, because we are all human. But, unfortunately, such is not the case. We feel we must speak out.”
Since entering office, Mr. LePage has shown little understanding of how the political chess of governance is effectively played, or even how the pieces move. He's quickly learning one lesson: a king with few allies rarely remains on the board for long.
[Update, 4/4/2011, 0745: The OpEd has been published, signed by eight Republican Senators and written by Sens. Katz and Langley (the two candidates who also criticized the RSLC's false attacks on their opponents during the campaign.)]
[Update, 4/14/2011, 0917: The Republican-controlled State House has resoundingly defeated LePage's effort to rollback the ban on BPA in baby products. The vote was 145-3 in the House and 35-0 in the Senate. In case you're curious, the holdouts were Larry Dunphy (R-Emden), Beth O'Connor (R-Berwick), and Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough.)]