Political experts know the most important factor in a successful race for governor is the campaign song.
Democrat John Baldacci wouldn’t occupy the Blaine House today if he hadn’t campaigned eight years ago to the reggae beat of “Johnny Too Bad.” (How were we to know he meant that literally?)
It also didn’t hurt Baldacci’s poll numbers when his moderate Republican opponent, Peter Cianchette, made the disastrous choice of Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You.”
In 2006, Baldacci achieved a modest re-election victory to the strains of Eric Idle’s “It Could Always Be Worse.” GOP opponent Chandler Woodcock answered critics who labeled him a religious extremist by selecting the George Jones and Tammy Wynette duet “God’s Gonna Get ’Cha (For That).”
This year, with 11 remaining gubernatorial primary candidates (when Democrat John Richardson dropped out last week over allegations aides had forged names to gain public campaign financing, his theme song was switched from The Trammps’ “Trusting Heart” — as if anyone could trust a guy who still digs disco — to Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money”), it’s more critical than ever to make the right musical choices. It’s one thing for independents like Alex Hammer to go with Green Day’s “American Idiot,” but that won’t do for a serious contender.
Democrat Patrick McGowan tried to commission an original tune, but it turns out nothing rhymes with McGowan. So, he appropriated a folk song by Mark Miller and Wayne Hendsbee called “Back in Maine,” which contains every conceivable cliché about the state (“pine trees and chickadees,” “lumberjacks and fishermen,” “Ferris wheels, potato fields”). It also clumps along at a pace that’s unlikely to inspire a sprint to the ballot box.
McGowan needs something with some lilt, something that evokes his heritage. Such as any up-tempo cut on the Pogues album Rum Sodomy & the Lash.
A good campaign song can be used to deflect criticism by showing the candidate has a sense of humor. Republican Les Otten would have an easier time dealing with allegations about the collapse of his heavily leveraged ski empire if his entrances were preceded by 10cc’s “Wall Street Shuffle.”
GOP rival Bruce Poliquin stood on a box to disguise his lack of stature in his TV spot with those burly construction workers. That would have been unnecessary if he used the Randy Newman song “Short People.”
Republican Matt Jacobson, a former railroad executive, could laugh off his status as an also-ran if he cranked up the old Crazy Horse cut “Gone Dead Train.”
Democrat Steve Rowe often causes audiences to doze off. Time to boost the volume on Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep.
Libby Mitchell, another Dem hopeful, never lost her native South Carolina drawl, but who’ll notice if she’s blasting Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken.”
GOP contender Peter Mills is acknowledged as the smartest man in the world, but voters of modest intelligence find that intimidating. Reassure them with Jimmy Buffett’s “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don’t Love Jesus.” He wasn’t going to get the religious right’s vote, anyway.
Republican Paul LePage’s debt-ridden campaign can still get his populist message out by playing the fiscal conservative’s national anthem: “Busted” by Johnny Cash. LePage, the general manager of Marden’s, can also show his softer side by slipping in Nanci Griffith’s “Love at the Five and Dime.”