Two men are back-to-back in front of a white background.
Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Ethan: It’s been 32 years since we had a former governor challenge a sitting governor in Maine. It was in 1990, for all the millennials that are reading our column. 

Phil: Do millennials read our column?

Ethan: Good point. But Boomers sure do! So, how do you think Janet versus Paul compares to Jock versus Joe?

Phil: Sleepy. Former Gov. Joe Brennan and sitting Gov. John McKernan were sparring on a daily basis and constantly countering each other’s credibility on the campaign trail in 1990. Big headlines coming out of every debate. Not so much this election. 

Ethan: Do you remember the “fumbling football” ad that McKernan ran against Brennan claiming he messed up his budget projections? It turned out, of course, that Brennan was right, but the ad did what it needed to give McKernan a second term. I wish I could find a copy of it!

Phil: I remember that ad. McKernan may have been wrong about the looming budget crisis, but he nailed workers comp reform! Today it feels like we have very little of that. The Bangor Daily News gubernatorial debate on Monday was interesting with challenging questions, but I didn’t leave the debate remembering anything significant. Thank goodness the Patriots came on after. 

Ethan: I agree. It was an interesting debate. I like how moderator Gregg Lagerquist let Mills and LePage interact and go back and forth. While they both have very different values, they are both very well versed in state policy, each having spent a long time in government service. Nothing stumped either one, and both talked about policy details that only folks who have spent time in the Blaine House would know. I found that fascinating, but most probably found it dull.

Phil: Lagerquist is a pro! I thought LePage imploring Mills to certify the Shawmut Dam in order to keep the Sappi mill open by saying he would carry the salmon over the dam himself was brilliant!

Ethan: Only a fly-fisherman like you would consider that a stimulating moment. It was interesting how Mills tried so hard to ignore even looking at LePage as he attacked her all night. That’s a pretty good indication, him attacking and her ignoring, that they both agree she is in the lead.

Phil: I’m not so sure about that. My analysis of his assertiveness was that it relayed his concern for our future and his passion for what we need to do now. He exceeded expectations by staying on issues and not creating distracting headlines from an outburst.

Ethan: I give “LePage 2.0” a little credit for keeping Mr. Hyde mostly under wraps. A few lies and a jelly donut threat at someone who got too close with a camera, but overall he’s been pretty normal. 

Phil: Perhaps you recall me predicting that would happen. LePage understands he must avoid self-inflicted headlines arising from his frustration or locker-room humor. With this wisdom his campaign has taken the focus off of him, and onto the issues Mainers face.

Ethan: The problem is that the policies he supports are not that liked by most Maine people. Abortion restrictions. Tax cuts for the wealthy. Closing and consolidating schools, etc.

Phil: His campaign is focused on energy costs as winter sets in, lowering income taxes for all, and streamlining the economic burden of government approvals. These are the compelling issues for voters, who avoid pollsters and don’t have campaign lawn signs. They are eager to cast their vote to stop the Democratic agenda. 

Ethan: Well, I suspect we will know the answer to that in about 10 days. For my money, I am predicting that …

Phil: Shut the front door!! Our prediction column is next week!