Gov. Paul LePage speaks at the Maine Republican Convention at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, Maine, Sunday, May 6, 2012.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP

The GOP’s ‘47 percent’ problem still lingers

What do you get when you combine one of the Republican Party’s biggest gaffe machines and one of the Republican Party’s most notorious statistics? The latest gem from Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R).
Informed that the event was wrapping up, LePage said he had two more points to make. The first was just one word: “energy.” The second was, he said, in reference to “workforce development.”
“About 47% of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work,” said LePage. On the recording you can hear a member of the audience ask “what?” LePage repeats himself: “About 47%. It’s really bad.”
The audio is online here. It’s quite clear, and unless the clip has been altered dramatically, it doesn’t seem as if there’s a forgiving context.
There are a few angles to keep in mind with a quote like this. First, LePage simply has no idea what he’s talking about. As the Bangor Daily News’ Mike Tipping explained, “Currently, around 65% of Mainers over the age of 15 are working or are unemployed and actively seeking work. Of the remaining 35%, almost all are retired, are caring for children or other family members, are pursuing education or training or have a disability that prevents them from working. Only a tiny fraction aren’t working for other reasons.”
Second, heading into his difficult re-election campaign, Maine’s far-right governor really didn’t need another controversial comment to defend, but it appears the poor man just can’t help himself.
And finally, “47 percent”? Again? I can appreciate why the last presidential campaign seems like a long time ago, but did LePage miss the part of the 2012 race when Mitt Romney’s use of this same bogus statistic caused him all manner of trouble?