Little did we know that Les Otten’s announcement of an exploratory committee for Maine governor would also feature some impromptu environmental policy. Clearly, he is a fan of recycling.

It’s one explanation for why Otten, a Republican, would imitate the campaign logo and Web site of President Barack Obama for his gubernatorial bid. It’s bizarro politics — but nonetheless weirdly brilliant. The free publicity it’s garnered is likely worth a mint.

And it’s given Otten — a political novice, for all intents and purposes — the prime chance to push for donations to protect him from the big, bad Democratic attacks. “I guess it shows how concerned they are about the positive reforms we’re going to bring to Augusta,” he responded, sounding somewhat gleeful.

This would be a graceful point, except for one thing: the aforementioned “positive reforms,” as so far presented, are a mish-mash of recycled (there’s that word again) talking points from campaigns of years past. The prospective political campaign of Gov. O still has many missing pieces.

Consider this July 6 piece from Otten in the Exception magazine, a Web-only publication: “I believe that Maine wants leaders who will deliver real tax reform, a realistic path to energy independence, an improved business climate and 21st century educational opportunities,” says Otten.

He’s right, of course, but none of these policy platforms are exactly a shaky limb. It’s hard for Otten to portray himself as the victim of negative partisan attacks for his positive reformist policies, if he can’t explain his positions beyond such bland platitudes that nobody really objects to.

Therein lies the problem. What we know about Otten has nothing to do with his politics. Everybody knows the steep rise and plummet of American Skiing Co., his ultra-minority ownership stake in the Boston Red Sox, and more recent, the importation of European pellet stoves for the American market.

Otten has voiced strong opinions on energy policies for Maine and, to his credit, did overcome our strong criticism for his conflict of interest as chairman of Gov. John Baldacci’s Wood-to-Energy Task Force to present a final report that made some sensible, measured recommendations.

Yet beyond this, and turns as town meeting moderator in Newry, his political persona is unknown. His announcing the exploratory committee should have been his débutante ball, a made-for-TV political coming-out party, yet it was overshadowed by the uproar about the logo and Web site.

This is not the first impression Otten should have desired. While the publicity is valuable, the public introduction to candidate Otten became more about him personally, his values and judgment, rather than his policy platform. Good thing, then, it’s July of 2009.

There is still time to build one.

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