First thing that came to my mind last night as I watched the election returns: Mitt Romney and Shannon O'Brien. Republican and Democratic Massachusetts gubernatorial opponents in 2002 -- him the businessman outsider, her the state-government veteran. Or, as the Associated Press said today about Maine's upcoming governor's race between Paul LePage and Libby Mitchell: "a general election pitting a limited-government conservative against a liberal Statehouse insider." (Massachusetts, like Maine, has never elected a female governor.)
There aren't a lot of technical similarities between the candidates or the races (certainly both Romney and LePage would point out that they come from very different backgrounds, have different ideological bents, hold different political aspirations, and carry themselves with different quantities of prom-king gallantry), but from my perspective, the *essence* of Maine's upcoming gubernatorial contest echoes that of the Massachusetts race eight years ago. (Very scientific, these *essences.*) If that's so, Libby Mitchell should be wary of being painted as an smart but somewhat uninspired liberal career politician, and Paul LePage should be careful never to label Mitchell's words or tactics as "unbecoming."