Update – This post was updated at 1:10 p.m. on 8/20/13 to include Gov. Paul LePage’s denial.
By now you’ve probably read about the latest inflammatory remark by Maine Gov. Paul LePage. The Portland Press Herald reports that at a Republican fundraiser, he said that President Barack Obama “hates white people.” An independent source confirmed to me his words and also says he referred to Attorney General Eric Holder, who is African American, as “Obama’s boy.”
In a press conference Tuesday, LePage denied making the statements. It will be interesting to see if that does anything to dissuade the political blow back, given the fact that many have already confirmed he did make the statements, though on-background.
Some speculate these latest comments from the boorish LePage won’t have an impact on his re-election bid because Mainers are already used to his behavior. That could be true. But it could also be true that he continues to alienate voters who would normally vote for him, but instead decide to not make the effort and stay home. And even more damning for LePage, a continued downward spiral could prompt the party to look seriously at more palatable primary opponents.
“If this story sustains itself for a few days, and national pundits weigh in, it may be the beginning of the end,” said one top Maine Republican consultant. “More [Republicans] will get comfortable condemning and he’ll lose his grip.”
One well-connected source said LePage’s team has been frantically trying to get all the Republicans in the room who heard the remark to say they indeed didn’t, something that’s already proved impossible. But watching which GOP lawmakers deny hearing it at all is a potential sign for those willing to cow to the governor under nearly any circumstance.
Regardless, it makes for a field day for Democrats and more headaches for Republicans.
Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, said the juxtaposition of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat representing Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, who recently announced his candidacy, with that of LePage presents Mainers with diametrically opposite choices.
“Democrats will nominate Mike Michaud for governor, a candidate who represents decency, hard work, and middle class values; Republicans will nominate Paul LePage, a candidate who continuously brings public humiliation, paired with ideological extremism, to the people of Maine,” he said. “That era will end next November, and working Mainers will be better off for it.”
Meanwhile, requests for comment from the Republican Governors Association, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe were not immediately returned. Both Collins and Snowe have lent their name to LePage fundraising events, indicating their support for his re-election. I’ll update as soon as I receive any of their statements.