DNC Kicks Off Tour Highlighting Leftward Shift

Perez, Sanders set to rally in Maine, a blue-collar state that has lurched away from Democrats

The Democratic National Committee is set to kick off a nationwide “unity” tour in Maine on Monday featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent socialist from Vermont, a politician who is not officially even a member of the party, front and center.

The decision to highlight the Democrats’ new subservience to the far-left by parading Sanders on a tour is not the only remarkable aspect of the Monday kickoff. The Democrats chose to start their tour in Maine. The normally liberal-to-moderate state has a famous independent streak, but now Democrats are worried if voters in the Pine Tree State are leaning away from them entirely.

“If [the Democrats] can’t win there, there is no path forward.”

To cobble together a majority of wins in 2018 to take back the House of Representatives, the Democrats would likely have to win the 2nd Congressional District of Maine, which has been held by Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, since 2015.

Winning back the House and Senate are the main electoral goals for Democrats in 2018.

“If [the Democrats] can’t win there, there is no path forward,” said Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s first campaign manager and a New England native, speaking to LifeZette on Friday. “It makes a lot of sense to go to [Maine].”

Independent Maine
But Maine is not like the rest of New England, experts note. It is famously independent, and the rural part of Maine — and there is a lot of it — is not liberal. Still, the addition of Poliquin to the New England congressional delegation in 2014 rattled Democrats.

In 2016, Poliquin held on to his seat, despite a fierce campaign to unseat him.

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Democrats are also on defense in other parts of New England. In New England, liberalism has pretty much reigned supreme since the years of Bill Clinton in the 1990s. But Republicans have recently been able to regularly win governorships.

It’s much, much harder for the Republicans to win federal races. Even in conservative New Hampshire — which declares “Live Free or Die” — the Democrats picked up a Senate seat and a House seat in 2016.

But in Maine, Democrats have not won a statewide election in more than 10 years, according to Jason Savage, the executive director of the Maine Republican Party. Gov. Paul LePage, an outspoken conservative Republican, has held office since 2010, and won a bruising re-election in 2014. LePage helped the GOP win the state senate that year, too.

Sen. Susan Collins, a liberal Republican, has held her seat since 1997. And Sen. Angus King, while a liberal, has always run as an independent, winning his seat in 2012. (King won the governorship of Maine as an independent in 1994 and 1998.)

King caucuses with the Senate Democrats. Savage says King doesn’t want to enter the tent officially, however, because it would immediately tarnish his independent brand.

King has reason to be wary. The last time Maine elected a Democratic governor was in 2006, when incumbent Gov. John Baldacci struggled to break 40 percent. And the last time Maine elected a Democratic senator was in 1988, when Sen. George Mitchell was re-elected.

But most disturbingly for Democrats, Trump won one electoral vote from Maine, the first time a Republican has won any electoral votes from Maine since 1988. The state drew attention from both presidential candidates because it divides its electoral votes based on congressional districts. Maine has two congressional districts. Trump did not win the state, but by winning the 2nd Congressional District, he won one electoral vote.

So not only do Democrats want to win both Maine House seats in 2018, they want to lay the groundwork for a complete win in 2020 against Trump.

But another problem for Democrats is their roster. The Maine Democrats have a very weak bench, Savage says.

Perez and Sanders
It’s unclear if bringing Perez and the far-left Sanders to Portland will help turn the tide in Maine.

Savage believes the far-left nature of Sanders and Perez will turn off voters outside of Portland, Maine’s largest city.

But Democrats seem to believe being stridently against Trump may be enough in 2018.

The DNC is apparently not targeting their own “blue” states in the tour. Instead, the Democrats are targeting “purple” and “red” states in their tour, officially known as the “Come Together and Fight Back” tour. CNN reported that other states on the tour could be Florida, Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Nebraska and Utah.

Lewandowski noted those are all states with GOP governors.

The strategy is apparently not to hope for a clean sweep in those states, but to pick up what House seats the Democrats can.

Midterm elections are usually a challenge for the party that controls the White House, and Democrats are wondering if they can take back the House and Senate under Trump.

Right now, the signs are not great that Democrats will win big in 2018. The Democrats just lost an open-seat battle in Kansas, in a special election for the seat of now-CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

But Lewandowski notes the House Democrats have raised more than $8 million for the special election on Tuesday in Georgia. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $31 million in the first quarter of the year. While the National Republican Congressional Committee raised $36 million in the same quarter, it was a fundraising record for House Democrats.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.