AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump comes to Bangor on Saturday trying to punch his way out of a tight corner, but he still has support from prominent Republicans in his 2nd Congressional District base.
The New York billionaire has dropped in national polls to Democrat Hillary Clinton since last week’s release of a 2005 tape in which he said “when you’re a star,” you can “do anything” to women that has prompted an avalanche of sexual misconduct allegations.
Trump had looked likely to win one of Maine’s four Electoral College votes in the rural 2nd District, holding wide polling leads there in September and threatening to be the first member of his party to win the whole state since 1988.
However, he may have wounded his chances: Clinton led Trump by nine points statewide and the race was essentially tied in the 2nd District in the most recent poll from the progressive Maine People’s Resource Center that was in the field before the tape’s release.
Maine’s biggest-name Republicans have taken different tacks: Gov. Paul LePage is fully behind Trump, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has said she won’t vote for him and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District hasn’t said who he’ll vote for.
So, we tried to put an open-ended question to 10 other prominent Republicans from Maine’s 2nd District: How do you feel about Trump’s campaign right now? Seven gave their thoughts, with three elected officials dodging the question.
Mary Adams of Garland, an activist who runs the Maine Center-Right Coalition and championed the repeal of Maine’s statewide property tax in the 1970s:
“I think we’re in such awful shape right now as a country that it’s going to take somebody with the chutzpah and the brains of a New York businessman to have any hope of working out of this chaos we’re in. I’m totally in for Trump. I think he’s the only hope.”
Carol Weston of Montville, a former state senator and former Maine state director of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group:
“He has been very open and transparent about who he is and his past, so I don’t think any revelations that are similar to what he’s already said should surprise people. So you take him for what you know, what you’ve seen and what he’s said he believes. So I support him and I’m going to continue to do so.”
Charlie Webster of Farmington, former chairman of the Maine Republican Party:
“I supported (Florida Sen. Marco) Rubio, but I like the fact that he’s talking about trade and issues regular people are concerned about. He wasn’t my first choice, but he’s the nominee and I wish he wouldn’t talk the way he does sometimes. But I do think it’s hypocrisy, because — you’re a man. If you tell me you’ve never heard that kind of talk (on the 2005 tape), then you’re lying or you’ve lived in a glass world.”
Bob Emrich, a Plymouth pastor and chairman of the Christian Civic League of Maine’s board:
“I don’t like the way either one of them have run their campaign, so the campaigns themselves don’t move me one way or the other. I have personality problems, character problems with both of them. But having said all that, I think the policies that Donald Trump wants to pursue are better than those that Hillary Clinton wants to pursue and … Donald Trump is surrounding himself with people that are more aligned with what I want to see in government.”
Rep. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, who was a delegate to the Republican National Convention:
“I guess my comment would be, ‘Never Hillary.’ ”
Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport: Didn’t respond to two voicemails seeking comment.
House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport: Didn’t respond to a text message; answered his cellphone twice, hung up twice and didn’t return another call.
Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, of the party’s libertarian wing: No comment.
Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Peter Mills, a former legislator and two-time gubernatorial candidate from Cornville:
“When I was 21 years old in 1964, Barry Goldwater (a conservative Arizona senator who lost in a landslide to President Lyndon B. Johnson) was at the top of the ballot and when the smoke cleared, out of the 35 members of the Maine state Senate, only three of them were Republicans. People got elected from the Democratic ticket who didn’t even know where the State House was and my father ( Sumner Peter Mills Jr.) got beat. I was in shock. As a voting adult, it was my first exposure to politics and my reaction at the time was, ‘Thank God that’s over. The conservatives have their tail between their legs and we can get on with business and we’ll never have to hear from people like that again.’ Now, here I am, I’m 73 and it’s a real deja vu thing. But Goldwater was such a civilized person compared to (Trump).’ ”
Jonathan Reisman, an economics professor at the University of Maine at Machias and former congressional candidate from Cooper:
“Depressed, in rare agreement with Sen. Collins, and wishing Rep. Poliquin would advocate for limiting executive power regardless of which congenital liar wins.”