BANGOR — The bromance between Governor Paul LePage and Donald Trump continued to bloom Wednesday evening, when the two Republicans hosted a rally for the presumptive GOP nominee’s presidential campaign in this riverside city.
“He’s a bit shy, but I’m working on him,” LePage joked as he introduced Trump.
Both pols are known for being blunt — often at their own rhetorical peril. Both started in business before entering politics. Both have a demonstrated appeal to the kind of blue-collar, mostly white voters who live in this part of the Pine Tree State.
The similarities may end close to there. Trump jets around the country running for president, while LePage picks his contentious battles with the Legislature. Trump calls into cable news shows, while LePage swears off local media. Trump likes to boast of his “billions” in wealth, and LePage’s wife recently took a job at a seafood restaurant because she wants to buy a car.
But no matter: At the rally at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center, LePage supported Trump wholeheartedly, calling him “our champion” and “the next president of the United States.” When Trump took the stage, the two men hugged, and he returned the praise.
“I want to thank our governor, our governor, I call him ours,” said Trump, who referred to LePage simply as Paul. “He’s a great, great guy.”
Trump and LePage echoed each other in their respective speeches, focusing on the need to create more jobs.
“My lovely wife is with me here today,” LePage said. “She took a day off from work.”
Trump, in his speech, thanked LePage’s wife and daughter for attending. Trump laughed, conceding they were all together at the rally, “for the family, forget the governor.”
The rally drew thousands of people, many of whom had stood outside waiting for hours, shielding themselves from scattered rain with umbrellas and raincoats. Stephen Rollins, 71, of Garland, brought a signed copy of his book, “Ronnie the Lobster,” in hopes of gifting it to Trump’s grandchildren.
Former Bangor mayor Larry Willey said he liked LePage’s and Trump’s business backgrounds.
“Mr. Trump will bring that entrepreneurial spirit to America,” Willey said.
While supporters waited, a group of about 20 protesters paraded toward the front of the building, holding signs that read “No Place for Racism” and eliciting honks from passing cars. Some protesters interrupted Trump at the rally and were escorted out without causing much disruption.
“I tell you, you have the nicest protesters in Maine,” Trump said.
Trump visited Bangor Wednesday after hosting a high-dollar fund-raiser in Boston. Bangor is part of Maine’s Second Congressional District, the more rural and conservative of the state’s two. Unlike most states, Maine awards two electoral votes to the statewide winner and one to each congressional district.
While complimenting LePage, Trump also told the packed crowd of his love for the state.
“What a big chunk of land,” Trump said, surveying the audience. “Honestly, among the most beautiful states.”
So beautiful, Trump joked, that he may come back to stay.
“If things don’t work out for me, I may just come up here and say, ‘the hell with it,’” Trump said.
And the crowd cheered even louder.Meg Bernhard can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.