Friday, October 19th, 2018

Professor predicts win for LePage; Cutler in second

Posted on November 02, 2010 in Election coverage
By Michael Shepherd

University of Maine at Farmington political science professor Jim Melcher said Tuesday afternoon that Republican Paul LePage will win the race for Maine governor today by “a few percentage points” and with a percentage of the vote “in the high 30s.”

Independent Eliot Cutler, he said, will finish second with Democrat Libby Mitchell running third. When current Gov. John Baldacci was re-elected in 2006, he received just over 38 percent of the vote.

“There are a lot of supporters of Libby Mitchell that have concluded she can’t win because her numbers are so stagnant,” Melcher said. “I think [the Cutler campaign] has really succeeded in persuading a lot of people a vote for Cutler is the only way to stop Paul LePage.”

A poll released Halloween night by Downeast Magazine showed LePage at 39 percent, Cutler at 29 percent and Mitchell at 24 percent. Independents Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott combined for five percent of the poll. No public polls had Cutler above 16 percent before October.

Two polls released last Thursday showed LePage garnering 40 percent of voter support. The first-released of the polls, from Rasmussen, had Mitchell and Cutler tied at 26 percent, while the second, a Public Policy Polling survey, showed Cutler at 28 percent and Mitchell at 24 percent.

Cutler campaign manager Ted O’Meara said the campaign has not put much stock into these polls because they only use land telephone lines to obtain their results.

“There are a lot of people in politics, whether it be objectively or professionally, that will tell you that these public polls aren’t worth a hell of a lot,” O’Meara said. “Most young people, certainly people who are in college and have been out of college for the past five or six years, don’t use land lines anymore.”

O’Meara said the Cutler campaign has received good responses from young voters and noted their presence on social networking websites as “a factor” in the campaign’s wide-ranging level of support.

LePage spokesman Dan Demerritt said their Web presence may not be all from genuine supporters.

“There are firms in Washington that, for a fee, they’ll jump on newspaper websites and social networking sites and try to drive opinion,” he said. “Eliot Cutler’s political campaign is run from Ted O’Meara’s laptop. I can’t imagine that. We’re out driving people to the polls.”

Many of those who liked Cutler but were planning on voting for Mitchell, Melcher said, have gone back to supporting Cutler of late.

“As he started doing better in the polls, I think a lot of people started to think that an independent candidate’s number in the polls was likely to keep dropping. When they saw it wasn’t dropping, they said ‘Oh, I don’t need to vote for Libby Mitchell anymore – I’m going to be able to vote how I want.”

However, Benjamin Goodman, president of Maine College Democrats, said Mitchell will likely finish second, ahead of Cutler and could beat “odds-on favorite” LePage.

“I don’t think Eliot Cutler’s going to do as big as people think he is,” Goodman said. “If Eliot Cutler can somehow take 10 percent of [Mitchell’s] base, then he could pull it off, but I think there are some strong Democrats who aren’t going to waver.”

He said that while Cutler genuinely wants to change Maine, he ran on “ambition” and ruined the election for politically left-of-center Maine voters.

“He’s splitting the Democratic vote and he’s handing the election to Paul LePage on a silver platter,” Goodman said. “He’s a Democrat who didn’t think he could win the Democratic nomination.”

Cutler campaign manager Ted O’Meara called Goodman’s assertion “wishful thinking.” He said the Mitchell candidacy has been “weak to begin with” and she “didn’t generate much excitement” outside her normal voting base.

“I think what we’ve seen over the past few days is the total collapse of the Mitchell candidacy. I can’t tell you how many e-mails and other communications we’ve had from Democrats across the state the last few days telling their friends and supporters that Eliot’s the only candidate who can beat Paul LePage,” he said.

Demerritt said LePage will not receive less than “39 or 40” percent of the vote. Demerritt was not traveling with LePage to statewide polling places today, but that he received positive reports on the campaign’s reception from the candidate’s daughter.

“60 to 70 percent of people walking by called him ‘governor’,” he said. “So I would say it’s going well.”

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