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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.
Ethan: You and I will be cooking up a lot of crow to eat when all the dust settles on this year’s election. My prediction of Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon defeating U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is worthy of a super sized crow pie.
Phil: Although we still have a few ballots to tally and recounts to endure, I will probably be eating a heaping helping myself for predicting Donald Trump would win reelection.
Ethan: I will then have crow for desert for my prediction that the Maine Democrats would expand their State House majority. It turns out they lost 11.
Phil: Pass some over to me with a little whipped cream for predicting Democrats would not expand their Maine Senate majority. They now have a nine seat majority, 22-13, the largest in four decades.
Ethan: But that’s the thing about Maine and what makes our jobs so interesting. It is so unpredictable. In the same election year, Joe Biden and Collins can both win Maine by solid margins.
Phil: And the Maine Senate can swing more blue, while the Maine House swings more red.
Ethan: And the city of Portland can pass four referendums, which taken together, are more progressive than any Maine municipality has ever seen (a prediction I got right).
Phil: While northern Maine can once again vote for Trump (one that I got right).
Ethan: What do you think causes Maine to split its ballots so much these days? Sixty years ago, we were solidly red, but in the past few decades, we seem to have a decidedly purple streak in terms of who we want representing us. Democrats in some offices, Republicans in others and Angus King for whatever he chooses to run for!
Phil: I think Maine has always been somewhat independent. Although we used to be known as the bellwether state — “As Maine goes, so goes the Nation” — we have landed in a place that is much more nuanced. I’d suggest that for us, the adage “all politics is local” rings more true than in most places.
Ethan: I think that is probably one of the reasons that Gideon was not successful. There seemed to be a lot of effort placed on tying Collins to the national waves against Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but that clearly wasn’t the right message in Maine.
Phil: True. And the pollsters had it wrong from the beginning. Their incompetence convinced Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and his funders to bombard us incessantly with commercials through every portal possible, which in turn backfired. Had they got it right the money would have left Maine for some other candidate long ago.
Ethan: I think the U.S. Senate race was always competitive, so I don’t think spending money here, on both sides, was irresponsible (even if the amount was absolutely disgusting). But look, coattails, for or against, rarely work in this state. In Portland, the opposition used Mayor Kate Snyder to push against the referendum. They polled her favorables and a couple months before the election she was very popular. But despite all the social media videos, press conferences, and mailers, the positions she advocated for, lost badly.
Phil: That said, I do believe Bill Green’s ads moved the needle for Collins. It reminded viewers that Collins was not some extremist. Not out of touch, still from Maine, not D.C. And it came from a person people trusted, who was also not seen as extreme, or even political. In fact, just the opposite.
Ethan: I do agree there. I also think all those trips Trump and family made to the 2nd Congressional District really helped Collins in terms of rallying the base. I actually think they were designed more for her than for him, since it made no sense to work that hard for one electoral vote, when he needed 20 out of Pennsylvania.
Phil: Those trips also helped Dale Crafts come in much closer than I expected. Another prediction I made that will cause me to eat crow for breakfast tomorrow.
Ethan: Yeah, I got that one wrong, too. Does anyone actually know what eating crow tastes like?
Phil: I think we both tasted it on Election Day.