Maine politicians duck questions on Trump and Biden’s 2024 prospects – Bangor Daily News

Big-name Maine politicians are largely refusing to say whether their party’s standard-bearers, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, should run again in 2024.

Many argue that the November election bearing down makes the election after that irrelevant for now. Speculation is still mounting with the Democratic president seeing discontent within his party, while his Republican predecessor is facing a congressional investigation into his role in the Capitol riots of Jan. 6, 2021, and has already lost the presidency.

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If the 2024 election was not already hanging over this one, it undoubtedly would be if Trump announces his candidacy before Election Day. Anonymous advisors told The Washington Post earlier this month that he was eyeing a September announcement, while Biden has consistently said he plans to run again despite his 80th birthday falling this November.

He has at least one supporter in high-level Maine politics. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, was the only party candidate in a top-of-the-ticket election this November to state explicit support for either Biden or Trump.

“With strong support from Democrats in Congress, President Biden has accomplished a lot in the two years since he took office despite tremendous domestic and global crises,” Pingree said.

President Donald Trump greets former Gov. Paul LePage after exiting Air Force One at Bangor International Airport during a visit to Maine on June 5, 2020. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Former Gov. Paul LePage, who was one of the first establishment Republicans to endorse Trump during the 2016 primaries and chaired his Maine campaign two years ago, has been shy this time as he faces Democratic Gov. Janet Mills in November, refusing to say if he would endorse a bid by Trump to seek a second term.

“I am running for governor of the state of Maine and I’ll let the national stuff take care of itself,” LePage said at an appearance in Bangor on Tuesday.

And when asked at a press conference on reproductive rights in Portland last month if Biden should run again, Gov. Janet Mills said she did not “want to talk about the president this morning.”

A spokesperson for Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, sent along a previous statement about King not “looking beyond” the current election cycle.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who said this year that no politician should fear Trump’s influence and voted to convict him on a riot-related impeachment charge, did not respond to a request for comment this week on whether he should run again.

In mid-July, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District said he was “not worried” about the 2024 election and was focused on inflation, national security and making investments within his district. He still laid some blame on fellow Democrats, alluding to his vote against the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act last year.

“If the president and the leaders of my party had been more conscious of inflationary risks … there might be less hand-wringing right now about who should be running for office in 2024,” Golden said.

Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, Golden’s Republican opponent, declined to say whether Trump should run again, though he tied himself to Trump by noting the former president had appointed Poliquin to a federal board in 2019 while Golden voted to impeach Trump.

“Maine people are already tired of Biden’s policies,” Poliquin spokesperson Roy Mathews said. “The only way to check Biden’s agenda is to vote for change this November.”

Jill Biden, left, and Gov. Janet Mills, right, pose for a photo following a presidential campaign rally on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, at the Thomas Hill Standpipe in Bangor. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Pingree’s Republican opponent, Ed Thelander, a longshot in the reliably liberal district, did not respond to multiple requests for comment about which Republican presidential nominee he would support in 2024.

The hesitancy for Democrats to support Biden and Republicans Trump reflect a growing level of unpopularity within their parties, said Jeremy Fischer, a Democrat who represented Presque Isle in the Maine House from 2002 to 2008 and is now a lawyer in Portland.

Fischer said it wasn’t uncommon for standard-bearers to be unpopular, noting the low approval ratings for both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. But candidates actively shying away from them was more unusual, he noted.

One important thing was that it remains an open question whether Biden will run in 2024, Fisher said. While he has insisted he is likely to run again, a recent CNN poll found that three-fourths of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters wanted a nominee other than Biden.

“People don’t want to make an issue about their support for him when they don’t need to,” Fischer said. “People are kind of free to take a wait-and-see attitude.”

BDN writers Lia Russell and Jessica Piper contributed to this report.

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