The Republican minority caucus in the Maine House has decided not to take any action to address recent inflammatory comments by Republican Gov. Paul LePage. The House Republicans decided they would stand by the governor Tuesday following a more than two-hour private meeting where they discussed recent racially charged comments LePage has made at [a] series of public meetings and an obscenity-laced voice mail the governor left for a Democratic lawmaker last week.
Facing a variety of controversies, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) publicly acknowledged yesterday morning that he might resign before the end of his term. Later in the day, the Republican governor dismissed the "rumors" about his possible resignation, apparently oblivious to the fact that LePage himself was responsible for creating the scuttlebutt in the first place.
There's no shortage of questions about the governor's mess, but among the most pressing is what in the world Maine Republicans intend to do about it. Because the fact remains that if GOP legislators in the Pine Tree State turn on LePage, the governor's decisions about his future could very well be made for him.
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State House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R) said he and his GOP colleagues in the state House "are going to go out there and start talking about the issues and start talking to the voters because we believe that's what's important." He added, "We are not coming back in for a special session to talk about this."
The implication is that, as far as the state House Minority Leader is concerned, Paul LePage's erratic and offensive behavior is not "important," and shouldn't be considered one of "the issues" facing Maine.
A report from WCSH, the NBC affiliate in Portland, added that state House Republican leaders "said they do expect a genuine apology from Gov. LePage, but when asked by several reporters what exactly they think needs to happen next, they were unclear, only saying that they hope to move forward to the issues at hand and upcoming elections."
In addition to the political implications of the governor benefiting from Republican officials' support, there are practical considerations to this: the NBC affiliate's report added that a special legislative session -- that could take up impeachment or censure resolutions, for example -- "requires approval on both sides, which means that a special session over Gov. LePage is unlikely."
There are some parallels connecting this to the national landscape. In presidential politics, many have wondered what it would take for congressional Republican leaders to abandon Donald Trump after some of his more outlandish, overtly racist antics. The answer quickly became clear that there was no line Trump could cross; GOP leaders' support is effectively unconditional.
Evidently, when it comes to the Maine-based version of Trump, the same dynamic applies.
Postscript: It's worth emphasizing that the leaders of the Maine House are apparently prepared to overlook LePage's latest controversies, but we still haven't heard from state Senate leaders. What's more, as the Press Herald's Bill Nemitz mentioned on the show last night, there may be some individual Republican legislators, perhaps worried about their own re-election races, who go further in denouncing the governor's misconduct.