The wrong words

Putting Maine To Work's approach
By AL DIAMON  |  November 9, 2011

In the past month, a political action committee called Putting Maine To Work has sent me so many brochures that I no longer need to worry about putting myself to work. That's because I'm heating my house for free by burning several cords of their mailers.

But if all that paper hadn't alleviated my concern about the cost of keeping warm this winter, I'd have been intrigued by PMTW's ads, which informed me that voting yes on Question 2 would create "New jobs," would "Help Grow Maine's Economy" and would be "Attracting new economic opportunities."

Since I'm writing this before the results of the November 8 election are known, I can't be sure PMTW's approach was effective. But it seems like a sensible method of getting people to support something they might otherwise find odious. Just shift the argument from what Question 2 was really about — slot machines — to an easier sell — jobs or sex or free liquor or whatever.

I expect to see this tactic employed in political campaigns more frequently in the future. Although trying to convince next year's Republican primary voters that casting a ballot for either US Senator Olympia Snowe or challenger Scott D'Amboise will get them into the sack with an attractive partner may be beyond the capabilities of even the most shameless media contortionist.

Nevertheless, PMTW has opened up new possibilities for that sad group known as Pols Whose Messages Have Failed To Resonate. And whenever the subject of PWMHFTR comes up, the first name on the list has often been GOP Governor Paul LePage.

It's true that a recent poll shows LePage (new slogan: Now With 16 Percent More Popularity!) has a positive approval rating with slightly less than half the populace, a distinct upgrade from the numbers in the low 30s he was pulling earlier this year. But with more than 50 percent of Mainers either hostile or equivocal, he could still stand to refine his image. Since he's already overused the term "jobs" to camouflage everything from his plan to roll back environmental regulations to his taste in public art to his cluelessness about state law governing unemployment compensation, he really needs a new mantra for his next campaign. (His brief flirtation with the euphemism "painful rectal examination" is probably not going to do the trick.)

LePage announced last month that he doesn't want Maine's cities and towns standing in the way of development.

"If you will not cooperate with the state, [if you are] stricter on regulations, then you lose revenue sharing," LePage told the Bangor Daily News. "Obviously, you don't need the revenue."

Municipal officials reacted to this announcement as if they'd been told to bend over and spread. Which demonstrates just how poorly the governor crafted his message. Also, how the governor doesn't know what he's talking about.

As it turns out, there aren't many areas where municipalities can enact stricter rules than those the state imposes. They can ban fireworks. They can pass zoning ordinances that limit where development takes place. They can crack down on jaywalkers, litterbugs, and people practicing proctology in public places. But if a business wants to locate in a particular town, there's not much local officials can do to stop it — beyond making sure it complies with state law.

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