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The Golden ticket to win a Trump district

That’s solely one among many disconnects Golden identifies between nationwide Democrats and the largely blue-collar voters he appeals instantly to. If his social gathering needs a resolution to that slow-motion fracturing, they could look no additional than Golden himself — a notable exception to the rightward drift, accelerated by Donald Trump’s rise, on this distant northern Maine district.

“We have to ask ourselves about some of the policies that the national party is pursuing,” Golden mentioned, granting a uncommon interview to a nationwide outlet as he traversed the University of Maine campus in a dusty Chevy pickup. “I think, sometimes, I don’t agree with my party’s characterization of what are the most pressing needs at the moment.”

That method has helped him twice defy the GOP’s rising energy right here, outperforming President Joe Biden by virtually 14 factors in 2020, at the same time as the identical election decimated Democrats’ ranks in rural America. But Republicans insist his streak is about to run out.

Unlike in his final election, Golden now faces a well-known and well-funded challenger in former GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who misplaced by a single proportion level in 2018 and opted out of working in 2020 for household causes. The nationwide GOP is ready to aggressively goal the seat, linking the two-term Democrat to his unpopular social gathering leaders and still-rampant inflation.

“He is trying to do what Joe Biden did successfully — which is fool enough Americans into Biden being a moderate to win the race. Biden’s not a moderate,” Poliquin mentioned in a latest interview exterior a marketing campaign cease, simply earlier than unloading a field of doughnuts he’d introduced for a ridealong with the Lewiston Police Department.

Poliquin, whom Golden toppled 4 years in the past within the first-ever ranked alternative election for a member of Congress, identified that his foe votes “more than 80 percent” of the time with Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But Golden, who detests labels as much as he detests D.C. politics, isn’t really easy to yoke to the remainder of his social gathering. While different Democrats fret over speaking factors, Golden sometimes skips weekly caucus conferences. He mentioned dryly that he tosses memos from the social gathering’s marketing campaign arm “in the dumpster.”

And he instructed his social gathering final yr that Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid invoice was a unhealthy thought.

“I said, ‘I think this is more money than the economy needs’ … At the time, people said, ‘you’re wrong,” Golden recalled of his conversations with social gathering leaders, lengthy earlier than inflation grew to become Democrats’ largest drawback.

Golden, the one Democrat in Congress to oppose that invoice, criticized it on the time as a “mountain of unnecessary or untimely spending” — phrases that he mentioned left different Democrats “kinda pissed.” (“I thought it was true,” he added. “So I said it.”)

All of which implies he won’t be really easy to take down in November, regardless of Poliquin’s sturdy economics-focused pitch to voters right here.

Golden did, nonetheless, vote for Biden’s newest massive agenda merchandise, a sweeping local weather, well being and tax invoice that’s — regardless of its new spending — projected to slash the deficit by $700 billion over a decade. Golden sees central parts of that measure, like the flexibility for the federal government to negotiate drug costs for Medicare, as vastly consequential to his district’s voters, who on common skew older and lower-income.

Those advantages are a great distance off, although. And Republicans level out that billions extra {dollars}, even whether it is absolutely paid for, will do little to combat inflation within the quick time period.

Poliquin, a former Maine state treasurer, mentioned it’s these value hikes that he hears most about throughout his time crisscrossing Congress’ largest district east of the Mississippi. And he believes voters are prepared to rebuke Democrats for his or her spending spree, Golden included, regardless of the congressman’s personal vote in opposition to a lot of it.

“The people I talk to are scared to death about the future of this country, for their future and their kids,” Poliquin mentioned, recounting an aged girl who instructed him she was afraid of dropping her house within the face of Maine’s highest-ever costs for important family items. Heating oil costs have greater than doubled since final winter, spooking Mainers, and hikes this yr are anticipated to be worse.

Yet at the same time as these financial headwinds drag down Biden, who’s underwater within the state, Golden appears to hold his head above it. As Biden’s approval score was barely crossing 40 p.c round Memorial Day of this yr, one beforehand unreported ballot right here discovered that Golden’s personal favorability was at 60 p.c.

That similar ballot, carried out by a Democratic-affiliated group however not distributed because the social gathering declines to present its hand in aggressive races, discovered Golden outperforming Poliquin by 9 factors in a head-to-head matchup.

It’s not the one anomaly on this unusual district. Golden additionally turned heads final month when he beat out Poliquin for the endorsement of the Maine Fraternal Order of Police — a rarity for any nationwide Democrat. On the identical day, the group endorsed far-right former Gov. Paul LePage in his personal comeback bid.

Mike Edes, government director of the Maine police group, credited Golden’s near-constant communication with native departments.

“Jared is more of an old-time Democrat where yes, you belong to a party, but he’s more on the right in the Democrat Party,” mentioned Edes. “I think he’s going to win.”

It’s that form of outreach that’s sustained Golden’s supporter base regardless of his polarizing votes, from Democrats’ police reform debate (no) to Donald Trump’s impeachments (sure on two counts, no on the opposite) to Biden’s massive desires in “Build Back Better” (one other no).

Another side of Golden’s native attract: federal money. As Democrats moved to reestablish earmarks for the primary time in a decade, some battleground lawmakers had been cautious of potential GOP assaults. But Golden jumped on the likelihood, getting eight of 10 earmarks approved.

A giant chunk of that cash went to Golden’s house of Lewiston, the place Mayor Carl Sheline labored along with his workplace for a month on the appliance.

“Jared always does what he thinks is right and for that he has my deep respect and vote”, mentioned the politically unaffiliated Sheline, including that he’s formally endorsing Golden for reelection.

During his latest go to to the University of Maine, Golden and his workforce toured the location of one other potential earmark beneficiary. After leaving the campus, the place the flannel-clad congressman slot in nicely among the many plentiful Carhartt gear and steel-toed boots, Golden recommended that his social gathering “just talk about what we’ve been successful doing, instead of constantly focusing on — griping about — what” can’t get achieved.

But he’s not going to waste an excessive amount of time serious about it, or obsessing about his political future. Quoting former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who warned not to tie your ego to your place in life, he noticed that “this isn’t my identity.”

“I’m going to continue to do it for the time being if voters reelect me,” he mentioned. “But I’m not, like, losing sleep at night, worrying, ‘Am I gonna lose?’”

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