Usually, a new governor enjoys what, in political circles, is called a honeymoon.
Like a real honeymoon, it is usually short-lived — a brief period of political bliss in which the new governor has the goodwill of the people and the press. This is especially so when a governor wins by a large margin and appears to enjoy widespread, popular support at the onset of his term.
Suffice it to say Maine's newest governor, Paul LePage, never enjoyed that brief and shimmering reprieve from widespread public and media criticism. It's fair to say he got off to a rocky start.
And early on, LePage, elected by a slim margin in a three-way race, did little to help his own cause. Be it his less-than-diplomatic gaffes or outright insults hurled with bombastic language and tone, LePage got off to a controversial start with the media and his political critics.
To LePage's great credit, he has hung in there and his image in the public has spun around dramatically, according to a recent Critical Insights Poll released Wednesday. Through the clamor of his various public-relations missteps, LePage has stayed laser-focused on important issues: the economy and jobs.
A tireless advocate for reducing the regulatory burden on businesses small and large, and for making government more efficient and more focused on customer service, LePage has earned his newfound popularity.
He's done it not by being apologetic or by kowtowing, but by calling it as he sees it. In his unvarnished way, he has relayed his ideas in simple and sometimes blunt form to the people he governs.
It's been effective.
As a successful businessman, LePage came to office with a “my-way-or-the-highway” approach. He has tempered that tone and approach in what's been a steep learning curve.
While it always sounds good to say government should be run like a business, the simple fact is it cannot be.
LePage, despite a Republican majority in the Legislature, has found even those in his own party throwing up obstacles to his agenda. Unlike a business CEO, a governor can't simply order a legislature to do his bidding.
LePage seems to have finally recognized that and seems to understand that governing is a complicated and sometimes frustrating process.
Meanwhile, the public seems to recognize that he's grown into the job.
Last spring, only 31 percent of Mainers in a Critical Insights Poll approved of the way LePage was doing his job. In the most recent poll, 47 percent gave the governor a thumbs-up.
This jump in the polls shows that LePage's message and less strident delivery are working.
But we also suspect LePage — who pans both polls and newspaper editorials — is more interested in doing his job and reaching his goals than winning a popularity contest.
On Thursday, LePage was on the job again, working on his economic agenda in Quebec, where he was meeting with government officials to see how the Canadian province and Maine might work together to lower energy costs for business and promote cross-border economic development.
As he travels, he must take satisfaction in knowing more Mainers now stand behind his efforts.