Shawn Moody considers himself an independent, but he’s joining the Republican Party anyway.
“Looking at it from a realistic standpoint, there is not an independent party in Maine,” Moody told the Portland Press Herald. “It turned out to be a handicap in 2010. I didn’t have a political party to support me.”
That’s a heck of a confession. It’s like admitting you’re going to the prom with a different guy because your boyfriend doesn’t have a car.
In reality, Moody’s problem in his failed 2010 bid for governor wasn’t his lack of political party. He just ran a lousy campaign.
Moody’s 5 percent showing in the 2010 gubernatorial race was so bad, many believed the whole candidacy was simply a way to increase his business’s profile across the state. Moody’s campaign logo and branding was borrowed from his company, Moody’s Collision Center, and, for voters, it was difficult to know whether you were being persuaded to cast a vote for him or to have him fix your car.
During his campaign, he spent a lot of time promoting his friendship with some guy from Gorham who was on “Survivor,” and not much time describing his plans to move Maine’s economy forward, or deal with our rising health care costs. I recall the most memorable moment of his 2010 campaign being the time he had a biplane fly a “Moody for Governor” banner over Old Orchard Beach.
Moody’s foray into politics in 2010 was long and gimmicks and short on substance.
Now he’s got another gimmick lined up — it’s called the Republican Party.
Last week, he announced he was joining the GOP, as prelude to another gubernatorial run. And there’s a rumor floating around Augusta that Gov. Paul LePage and his team are getting behind him.
LePage’s political team is headed up by Brent Littlefield, and no one knows how to lean on the Republican Party apparatus more than him. Littlefield’s trademark is running slim local campaigns, and relying on massive influxes of DC committee cash to save the day.
In 2010, LePage’s campaign raised roughly $1 million, but the Republican Governor’s Association dumped more than $1.8 million into the cause. The RGA also sent campaign staff to Maine and effectively ran the operation through embeds at the state party.
In 2014, LePage raised roughly $1.9 million, but the RGA again funded the majority of the campaign, spending more than $5.1 million.
Littlefield is also the political director for Rep. Bruce Poliquin, and Poliquin’s campaigns also relied heavily on DC committee spending.
In 2014, Poliquin raised roughly $1.5 million for his first campaign for congress. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent $1.3 million. In 2016, Poliquin’s campaign raised $3.3 million, while the NRCC spent $2.8 million.
When Moody says he needs a political party to support him, it’s likely the party’s money he’s talking about.
In 2010, Moody used $500,000 of his own money to fund a $566,000 campaign that garnered only 28,000 votes. That comes out to roughly $20 per vote, twice the $10 per vote price Eliot Cutler paid, and substantially more than the $13 per vote the RGA and LePage combined to pay.
It’s no surprise that a guy that prides himself on his fiscal acumen would want to stop dumping his own money into losing campaigns. But is it enough for someone to choose a political party simply for the cash?
Perhaps. Mary Mayhew was an activist Democrat until she got a job with the LePage administration and decided to run for governor. And Donald Trump didn’t become a Republican until he decided to run for the presidency.
All of this reflects a party that has become a vehicle for disparate ambitions rather than a gathering place for people with similar and identifiable principles. It’s why GOP loyalists can turn on a dime and support LePage’s threat to suspend the 4th Amendment or Trump’s irrational attacks on the 1st Amendment. It’s why “the base” can support LePage’s efforts to raise taxes and ignore the profligate spending disasters that occurred under his watch.
Moody is simply the latest aspiring politico to hitch a ride on the GOP train. He’s got somewhere he wants to go politically, and he’s looking for a free ride to get there.
And as Moody put it himself to a reporter in 2011, it doesn’t really matter which party provides the ride.
“I think I could bring value to either side,” Moody said.