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At Rally In Maine, Trump Claims Presidential Election Is Rigged Against Him

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We're hearing this morning from points on the map where the presidential campaign is playing out in unpredictable ways. And we head north now to Maine, a state where the outcome is not really in doubt. Unless the polls are dead wrong, Hillary Clinton is expected to carry Maine, which raises the question - what was Donald Trump doing there yesterday? We've got Steve Mistler on the line to help answer that question. He's the chief political reporter for Maine Public Radio. Good morning, Steve.

STEVE MISTLER, BYLINE: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

KELLY: We are glad to have you on our air. So Trump held a rally yesterday in Bangor, in a state that polls indicate leans blue, as we said. Why is that a good use of his time?

MISTLER: Well, some models of Trump's path to the White House include him winning Maine's 2nd Congressional District. And that means it could get - it could have an outsized role in the election if Trump actually carries some of the bigger swing states. It's the largest district east of the Mississippi, and it's historically been purple. Voters have sent Democrats and Republicans to Congress. But the district has also undergone some changes that have made it shade red in the last several years. There's been paper mills that have closed and manufacturing jobs have left. It's older, whiter, rural and fewer people with college degrees than the more liberal 1st District. So if the prevailing analysis of Trump voters is correct, it's really in his sweet spot.

KELLY: We should give people a little Maine politics tutorial here, I guess. Maine has four electoral votes and three of the four are generally considered safe for Democrats. But that fourth, that 2nd District vote that you're talking about, that's the one that maybe is looking like a toss-up now.

MISTLER: Yeah, that's right. There were some polls early in mid-September that showed Trump with a decent lead or just ahead of Clinton. That means he's poised to do something that nobody here has done since Maine changed how it allocated its electoral votes in 1969, and that's to split the electoral votes.

KELLY: Can you identify what the factors are that may be driving that? What's shifted?

MISTLER: Well, some of the things I just mentioned, which...

KELLY: ...The paper mills.

MISTLER: Yeah, that's - I think that's part of it. I mean, it was - five mills have closed in the last two years. And that means that a lot of good-paying jobs have left. And so people are either underemployed or they're not making what they used to.

KELLY: What about how this specific campaign is playing out? For example, the controversy that has dominated this week of the question over Trump's treatment of women.

MISTLER: Well, that remains to be seen, how that does play out. I mean, he was at a rally in Bangor yesterday. And he discussed that, but not with the same specificity that he has at other rallies. He didn't mention his accusers by name, and he just said the accusations were lies perpetrated by the media.

KELLY: One factor - the governor of Maine, Paul LePage, is Republican. And he has been outspoken all through this campaign season in his support of Trump. Does he remain so? And how much weight does his voice carry?

MISTLER: He does remain an ardent supporter of Trump. And his voice does carry a lot of weight in the 2nd District, which he has carried twice in his first two elections here. And in fact, Trump parroted many of the things that the governor talks about quite frequently, which is welfare, the loss of manufacturing jobs and the heroin crisis. At the same time, the governor's very controversial. And he's made national headlines in a negative way twice since September. And incidentally, he was not at Trump's rally yesterday. And he had introduced him at the three previous rallies that Trump has held here.

KELLY: In just a few sentences, Steve Mistler, what are you watching for? What are you keeping your eye on with these last three weeks to go?

MISTLER: Well, what I really would like to know is whether the - I mean, Ted Cruz won here and Bernie Sanders won here...

KELLY: ...In the primaries.

MISTLER: That's correct. And we're - what we're waiting to see is whether those voters move to the respective Republican and Democratic candidates. And Bernie Sanders was here last week basically making the case that Trump is too dangerous. And I think perhaps that he's making a stronger case than Trump has so far to the Catholics, who really punch above their weight in Maine and in terms of turning out to vote.

KELLY: All right. That's Steve Mistler. He's chief political correspondent and statehouse bureau chief for Maine Public Radio. Steve, thanks very much.

MISTLER: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Elsewhere in the program today, we'll be checking on how the campaign is playing out in Ohio and Arizona. And later this week, NPR will be live fact-checking the last presidential debate. That's Wednesday night starting at 9 Eastern on npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.