As the country enters the final stretch of the presidential election, Republican Governor and Donald Trump supporter Paul LePage has again turned focus on immigration policy. Governor LePage, who has in the past joined Congressman Bruce Poliquin in voicing concern over unscreened Syrian refugees, has opted Maine out of the Federal Refugee Program.
In a press release sent out by his office, Governor LePage repeated concerns over unscreened refugees. It also referred to a conference call with state officials where federal officials from multiple federal agencies stated their goal to increase number of refugees coming into the United States for the next fiscal year.
Previously, Governor LePage has been a vocal critic of the refugee program. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has admitted before Congress that it cannot thoroughly screen the refugees, which was a point echoed by Governor LePage and Congressman Bruce Poliquin a year ago.
The timing is significant because it turns focus in Maine back on immigration just days before the presidential election. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been making a play for Maine’s second congressional district, which is generally more conservative than the first district. Donald Trump Jr. has twice made tours through Androscoggin County, visiting numerous stops including to the Androscoggin County Republican Headquarters. Trump Sr. himself held a rally in Bangor a month ago and recently held a rally in Lisbon.
Will this be enough to boost Trump?
Immigration and Maine Politics
Immigration has been a hot topic in Maine for sometime. Areas like the Lewiston/Auburn area, the so-called Twin Cities, have a significant immigrant population. With the rise of ISIS and the threat of refugee program infiltration, many have sounded the alarm against letting unfiltered populations through.
The Androscoggin County Republican Party has hammered the point, running a radio ad that hammers the left on a number of issues stemming from immigration. Titled “ISIS on Welfare“, it discusses a range of conservative issues tying back to unvetted refugees living in Maine and collecting benefits.
“The Citizens of Androscoggin County have been suffering first-hand for over a decade due to the societal and financial costs of these refugee programs, which only serve to line the pockets of government contractors, George Soros connected organizations, and several church-connected organizations who profit off this version of human trafficking,” explained Androscoggin County Vice Chairman Jason Greene.
This echoes a common sentiment that has led to the rise of Donald Trump. Trump has in the past called for halting immigration and refugee intake due to poor vetting, stopping Muslims from entering due to concerns of ISIS infiltration, and deporting those who are living in the country illegally. Despite common outcry by the vocal left and mainstream media, the message has caught on across America.
Vice chairman Greene, who stood on stage with Trump during his Lisbon rally, echoed the America First message that has dominated Republican politics this election cycle. “We have homeless Mainers–and even Veterans–living in tent cities while refugees and asylum-seekers are put up in government-subsidized housing,” noted Vice Chairman Greene.
Governor LePage and Vice Chairman Greene also alluded to an ISIS problem in Maine. In 2014, Bangor Daily News discussed the story of a Lewiston man who was radicalized and left the country to join ISIS in Syria. A year later, Governor LePage would receive criticism for voicing concern over the ISIS presence in Syria and how they might infiltrate refugees entering the country without properly being vetted.
A second instance occurred when Adnan Fazeli of Freeport received welfare assistance while being radicalized, as reported in August by the Boston Herald. He would eventually leave the country for Turkey. Fazeli’s case was cited by Governor LePage in his press release as evidence that the federal government isn’t doing enough to properly protect the country from the terrorist threat.
Vice Chairman Greene had some strong words in response to the Fazeli case. “The recent discovery of a second ISIS fighter being in Maine–this one collecting welfare benefits–means it is long past time to abolish these dangerous refugee scams,” he explained, echoing the Governor’s concerns. “This is why the Androscoggin County Republican Committee has been running TV, radio, and print advertising calling attention to both ISIS being in Maine and the refugee racket.”
In the last six election cycles, the Democratic Party has taken Maine in the presidential election. Despite a conservative second district, Democrats have taken about half of the overall vote in the state. That may change this year with Donald Trump’s immigration message.
Despite being overwhelmingly Democratic in presidential elections, Governor LePage has firmly won two terms as Maine’s Governor and has remained popular with his immigration message. Even as the Democratic Party, liberal activists, and the mainstream media attempt to paint concerned Mainers as xenophobic radicals, there clearly is an issue that people see with the program presently.
Can Trump Pull Off An Electoral Vote?
Five Thirty Eight projects Trump has a 54.5% chance of winning Maine’s Second Congressional District. Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton was at her best in June, holding a commanding 75.9% chance of winning Maine. She fell from there, but gained a jump when she got her post-National Convention poll surge.
Despite this data holding Clinton would maintain the recent Maine tradition of going Democratic, Trump’s investment in the state has paid off. He surged to a peak 75.4% in late September, before experiencing a drop after the audio recording controversy dropped in October.
Out of fourteen polls in Maine’s Second District, only two have put Clinton in the lead. Maine People’s Resource Center found Clinton had a 2% lead over Trump around August 17-2oth, when Five Thirty Eight still had her strong in Maine. That has since changed.
The twelve other polls have given Trump a lead ranging from 2-18% in Maine’s second district.
Why is Trump hanging on in Maine when the last six cycles have handed the state to the Democrats? His immigration message, which has been a huge issue for popular Republican Governor Paul LePage as well, is resonating. While Democrats attempt to paint the right as being xenophobic and hateful, the truth is that people are just concerned about safety. After a series of incidents involving terrorism in the post-9/11 era, it’s not surprising. These are concerns that the left does not want to hear as it panders and ignores points made by everyday Americans.
Will Donald Trump mount a surprising upset on Tuesday and become President-Elect? Time will tell, but it’s clear that Maine will not be a Hillary Clinton stronghold on Election Day.