Don't say the words

On the campaign trail
By AL DIAMON  |  August 31, 2011

There are two words Kevin Raye doesn't want to hear when he's out on the campaign trail next year.

No, not, "Buzz off, you mustard-smeared, RINO-infected retread."

Which is way more than two words, even if you count the hyphenated combos as one apiece (a practice employed by cheapskate editors, who pay by the word).

The phrase Raye, the current president of the Maine Senate and the likely 2012 Republican 2nd District congressional candidate, hopes never gets uttered while he's shaking hands and kissing babies is:

Paul LePage.

Because no matter what Raye says after that, it's going to cost him votes.

Raye is part of the moderate wing of the GOP, fiscally conservative but close to the middle on social issues. Even though he's a small business owner — he and his wife operate a mustard-manufacturing company in Eastport — he doesn't have much in common with the foaming-at-the-mouth (damn, more hyphens, which means less pay), anti-government Tea Party types. Those are the people who claim Raye is a Republican In Name Only (RINO). And the way they prove that charge is to subject suspects to a two-word test:

Grey Poupon.

I suppose that works pretty well in smoking out limousine liberals and champagne conservatives, but Raye, being a business rival of that particular brand, probably never touches the stuff. So, the right-wingers will have to rely on his reaction to the governor's name.

What these fanatics consider to be the correct response to any mention of LePage is something like this:

"I love that guy. Love him. Just love him. But, y'know, I think he's startin' to change since he's been in Augusta. He's bein' influenced by them career politicians. He ain't goin' far enough. I figured by now he'd been near finished with abolishin' gummint altogether. So, I love him, but I'm a tad disappointed it's takin' so long for him to stop the cops from comin' 'round here lookin' for my meth lab."

Unfortunately for Raye, he's one of those career pols who spent the last session of the Legislature modifying LePage's proposals so they a) stood some chance of passing and b) made a little sense. If he said what he really thinks ("The governor has Grey Poupon for brains"), he'd lose the hardcore LePage supporters. But if he appears to praise the guy too much, there's a danger he'll alienate moderate voters who are put off by the guv's whacky ways.

To date, Raye has tiptoed around that conflict, which is tricky to do if you have a tendency to leave mustard tracks behind you. When he talks about regulatory reform, he always mentions LePage in passing (". . . and Governor LePage . . ."), without bothering to note that his original bill easing rules on businesses was almost entirely rewritten by legislators to remove politically unpalatable sections. Same thing when he talks about the budget (". . . and Governor LePage . . ."). And health care. And taxes. Just enough notice so he can't be accused of snubbing the state's chief executive. Not quite enough to allow any juicy quotes to be taken out of context and used by Democrats to smear him for sucking up to the governor.

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