Good morning from Augusta. There are 13 days until the November election.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I was disappointed because from what I heard, he did not heed his own advice,” said Gov. Janet Mills of Vice President Mike Pence, whose campaign rally in Hermon on Monday violated state gathering limits amid the pandemic. Pence is the chair of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force.
What we’re watching today
A top White House official is visiting Maine on Wednesday as the president makes his final pitch ahead of the November election. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien will tour the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery and Bath Iron Works in a rare appearance in which he is expected to make President Donald Trump’s case for a bigger Navy — long a popular cause among Mainers who count the shipyards as major employers.
It is an official visit, but it comes with less than two weeks until the election as the Republican president has made Maine a priority. He is losing to former Vice President Joe Biden by a large margin in statewide polls, but the pair are close in the 2nd Congressional District, which Trump won by 10 points in 2016. O’Brien’s official visit was previewed in September by Politico.
Trump’s campaign has tried to argue that Biden would slash defense spending in a way that would be detrimental to Maine’s shipbuilders reliant on Navy contracts. Biden has criticized Trump over aspects of military spending, but has called for a more focused approach that still includes budget increases for the next three years, according to the Military Times.
It is an issue that has united Maine’s congressional delegation. U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, have hailed a policy signed into law by Trump in 2017 that would increase the Navy fleet from 296 ships to 355 ships. They have advocated against cuts since then that would have eroded the goal.
The pledge has not yet been accompanied by the requisite funding amid an internal struggle in the Pentagon over building up a bigger Navy, a priority that Trump looks to be setting up for his second term if he can win one. But he and Congress will need to pony up to do it and that could be a focus of O’Brien’s Wednesday visit to Maine.
The Maine politics top 3
— “The partisan sites fueling attack ads in the race between Susan Collins and Sara Gideon,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “News sites are generally exempt from rules governing campaign speech and financial disclosure. Sites have popped up to mimic them or fill roles played by legacy media outlets. While being partisan does not mean claims are incorrect, their strong headlines and portrayals of candidates can boost campaigns and outside groups in a partisan ecosystem by racking up social media shares and serving as convenient sources for attack ads.”
The sites are not the only media adding confusion to the race. Signs and a mailer released in recent weeks that appear to be favoring their mentioned candidate are actually opposition tactics meant to mislead voters and troll the other campaign. You have to read the fine print to know these efforts are opposition-backed — something that might be difficult for motorists in the greater Portland area, where the signs have been distributed.
— “Maine sets absentee voting record with 2 weeks until Election Day,” Piper, BDN: “Maine is outpacing the rest of the country in absentee voting so far, with the number of votes cast nationally equaling 25.5 percent of total turnout in the 2016 election, according to data collected by Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida. Among New England states, only Vermont has seen a higher share than Maine.”
— “As virus spreads in rural Waldo County, residents say it could’ve been prevented,” Abigail Curtis, BDN: “Many Waldo County residents are alarmed by the spike in numbers. As well, some are frustrated because [Brooks Pentecoastal Church] did not follow CDC guidelines, and so they feel the outbreak could have been prevented.
Green party candidate to make stops in Maine
The Green party presidential nominee will campaign with a Maine U.S. Senate candidate today. Former Green party member and independent Senate candidate Lisa Savage will accompany Howie Hawkins, the Green presidential nominee, in a tour across Maine today, including stops in Bangor, Lewiston and Portland.
Third-party presidential candidates could stand to benefit from Maine’s ranked-choice voting system, which will be used in a presidential election for the first time this year. So far, however, third-party candidates have not polled as well here as in 2016, when the Green and Libertarian candidates received a combined more than 7 percent of the vote.
In addition to Hawkins, Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and Rocky de la Fuente of the Alliance Party are also on Maine’s ballot this year. Jorgensen visited Maine for the first time early this month.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email firstname.lastname@example.org (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.