Say what you will about Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett, and plenty of people have, at least he's not known as "Governor Flintstone."

That would be Maine's Paul LePage, a fellow Republican that national pundits have listed alongside Corbett as an incumbent governor likely to lose in 2014. "Dead men walking," Politico recently called the two.

And there are some similarities. Both have underwater approval ratings, and each has a frosty relationship with his legislature.

But LePage, a bedrock tea party warrior, has earned his Stone Age nickname with a hard-edged and sometimes vulgar approach to politics that makes Corbett seem like a cuddly and softspoken centrist.

During wrangling over Maine's budget in June, for instance, LePage tore into the assistant majority leader of the state Senate, Democrat Troy Jackson, a logger by profession.

"Sen. Jackson claims to be for the people, but he's the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline," LePage told reporters. "People like Troy Jackson ought to go back in the woods and cut trees and let somebody with a brain come down here and do some work," he continued, pointing to himself with both thumbs for emphasis.

Later, the governor apologized for insulting the intelligence of lumberjacks - but stood by his attacks on Jackson, who had vowed the legislature would override his budget veto (which it did).

LePage has called the Internal Revenue Service the "new Gestapo," and he told an NAACP chapter leader to "kiss my butt" after he was criticized for skipping a Martin Luther King Day event. While campaigning in 2010, LePage promised that if he won, voters would see him on the front page every day telling President Obama to "go to hell."

LePage's relations with the press have been testy from the beginning, when he stormed out of a news conference during the 2010 campaign upon being asked about his property-tax payments. Last year, LePage told eighth graders in Waterville, Maine, that subscribing to newspapers was "like paying somebody to tell you lies." This summer, he ordered his administration not to speak to the Portland Press Herald and its sister papers after a series of stories raised conflict-of-interest concerns about one of his appointees. Last week he joked of blowing up the Press Herald's building.

One of LePage's first acts as governor was to remove a pro-labor mural from a state office building, saying it glorified job-killing unions. (The artwork is now in the state museum.) LePage has slowed business regulations and cut state taxes, which critics say has forced municipal governments to increase their property levies.

Analysts say that LePage is an anomaly in a state political culture that gave rise to centrists such as former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a Democrat; former Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican; and Sen. Susan Collins, also a Republican.

"Maine is a moderate state that likes to stay in the middle," said Ken Palmer, an emeritus political science professor at the University of Maine in Orono. "There's a strong communitarian culture," he said, noting the tradition of town meetings that make decisions for most of the state's 400 municipalities. "People focus on problem-solving - and surviving the tough winters."

How'd LePage win election in such a place? He won less than 40 percent of the vote but prevailed in a three-way race.

His favorability rating was 37 percent in a late-May poll of Maine voters by Critical Insights, an independent survey firm. LePage's more recent private polling shows his approval rating above 50 percent, and he is leading likely opponents, political adviser Brent Littlefield said. Corbett, by comparison, had a 30 percent favorable rating in a Quinnipiac University Poll this June.

For his part, Corbett has governed largely as a conservative, holding the line on taxes, cutting spending on social programs, and promoting the booming natural-gas industry. Yet he has not been as combative as LePage and other conservative Republican governors, such as Wisconsin's Scott Walker.

For all his political problems, Corbett has the power of incumbency and is expected to be able to raise up to $30 million for his reelection campaign. With a half-dozen Democrats jostling to challenge him, the opposition party is likely to have a draining primary.

LePage, too, could survive his controversies.

It looks like a three-way race is shaping up again, with a popular Democratic congressman from northern Maine and an independent candidate who finished a close second in 2010 challenging the incumbent. Maine has relatively weak parties, and access to the ballot is easy for nonaffiliated candidates, Palmer said.

"Against a single candidate, Gov. LePage would be in more trouble," Palmer said. "His base of conservative rural voters has held up for him, and the anti-LePage vote is split at this point."

If Gov. Flintstone can eke out a win, will Corbett, too, be saying yabba-dabba-doo on Election Day?

Contact Thomas Fitzgerald at or 215-854-2718, or follow @tomfitzgerald on Twitter. Read his blog, "The Big Tent,"