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Civil rights leader Betsy Smith switches support to Michaud

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Betsy Smith – Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Betsy Smith, an Eliot Cutler campaign finance committee member, former head of an independent PAC supporting Cutler and (before that) former director of the LGBT rights organization EqualityMaine has announced that she now supports Congressman Mike Michaud for governor and urges others to do the same, saying that he represents the best chance to “restore dignity to the state of Maine.”

“Election Day is around the corner and I’ll be casting my vote for Mike Michaud,” wrote Smith in an email. “It’s not where I started but it’s important to be here because we cannot afford another four years of Paul LePage.”

Smith also praised Michaud’s stands in favor of equality for members of the LGBT community.

“I’ve known and worked with Mike throughout his 12 years in Congress and I’ve been proud of his evolving support on LGBT issues. One particular version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) comes to mind when after challenging debate and discussion, he was just one of seven members of Congress to support the position we asked him to take.”

Smith had been one of Cutler’s most prominent supporters, endorsing him initially despite the fact that Michaud, if elected, would be the nation’s first openly gay governor. Smith’s former organization, EqualityMaine, endorsed Michaud.

Smith originally served as head of the Campaign for Maine PAC, an outside organization supporting Cutler but she left the PAC and joined the campaign proper as a volunteer in July, a result, she said, of a disagreement with PAC leadership. She says she pushed for more aggressive fundraising and campaigning by the organization than others were comfortable with.

Smith’s announcement joins the endorsement of Senator Angus King yesterday as almost mirror-image versions of events that occurred in the 2010 gubernatorial race. In that election, King’s late endorsement was one of the pillars of a surge of progressive and moderate voters towards Eliot Cutler at the end of the campaign that nearly saw him overtake Paul LePage.

An email sent to EqualityMaine’s large list of supporters in 2010 (gathered during the marriage equality referendum the year before) by then-director Smith was similarly influential.

“It has been our strategy from the beginning of this campaign to defeat Paul LePage, and to support the pro-marriage candidate who is within striking distance of that goal. Tomorrow, please vote for the pro-marriage candidate who you believe has the best chance of beating LePage,” wrote Smith at the time. She included poll numbers showing Cutler ahead.

Smith’s switch, along with endorsements by King, other prominent Cutler supporters, and the general collapse of the Cutler campaign, make clear that the movement in support this year will be toward Michaud.

With nearly every poll showing a deadlocked race between the two major-party candidates going into the last few days of the election (leaving the outcome largely dependent on get-out-the-vote efforts by the two campaigns), even a shift of just a few percentage points or an infusion of even a small amount of enthusiasm for either campaign could make a big difference in electing Maine’s next governor.

LePage hops on the radio (and your phone) and Cutler keeps money on the table

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

I’m not a gambling man, but even if I were, I’d probably stay far away from the gubernatorial election this year, partly because it’s a game that’s too rich for my blood.

In fact, it’s a game where independent Eliot Cutler, who said this week that his odds aren’t great, put another $150,000 of his own money down Tuesday to keep his campaign running through the weekend.

This week saw a mountain of spending both from campaigns and outside groups that slowed just before the weekend hit, but you’ll not near the end of those millions dropped earlier in the week until Election Day.

Add to that spending a late drop Thursday from Republican incumbent Gov. Paul LePage’s campaign, who put about $65,500 toward a batch of radio ads, $8,857 toward robocalls and $2,000 toward a print ad in Auburn.

Before jumping to the conclusion that the latter represents a softening by LePage toward his nemesis, newspapers, it should be noted that the ad buy is for a paper run by his communications director, Peter Steele.

LePage’s campaign and that of Democratic candidate Mike Michaud have been the most active in the days leading up to the election, with hundreds of thousands in spending on both sides and donations still rolling in.

In fact, LePage also received a special letter by mail Friday from one government/civil employee in Ohio. That is, a $1,500 consideration from Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is running for re-election in that state.

That and a Democratic fundraiser last night at the Cape Elizabeth home of Robert C.S. Monks are both perhaps signs that while most of the campaign spending is done, there are still some big money donors who will show up fashionably late.


Here’s how Mainers describe the 3 gubernatorial candidates — in one word

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Candidates for governor (from left) independent Eliot Cutler, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage greet each other on stage before a televised debate in Augusta earlier this month. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

How do Mainers really feel about the politicians running for the state’s highest office this year?

There are several ways to answer that question. Obviously, you can ask voters which candidate they’ll support in the upcoming election. That question has been asked a lot in recent months, but it does little to tell you the reason behind the vote.

One could also poll the “favorability” of each candidate, but that does little to tell you why the respondent feels the way they do.

As part of our second BDN/Ipsos poll, conducted Oct. 23-29, we tried something new. Ipsos asked each respondent to answer the following open-ended question: “What one word best describes your impression of each of the following candidates?”

Roughly 1,000 people responded, and Ipsos compiled the results into word clouds – visual representations of the results that show more common responses in larger type than less common ones. A scientific survey this wasn’t, but the results were telling.

A quick note: The word clouds above and below were created using the raw data from respondents, so misspelled words are shown separately. In my counts, however, I’m including obvious misspellings in the tallies. For example, “independent” and “independant” are counted together. Similarly, I’m counting words that represent the same idea — such as “embarrassment” and “embarrassing” — together as well. We’ve also omitted vulgar responses. 

On to the results.


These words represent the sentiments of more than 1,000 Mainers asked in a BDN/Ipsos online survey to describe their impressions of Republican Gov. Paul LePage in one word.

For LePage (word cloud above), “bully” was the mostly commonly used word, with 63 respondents using it to describe the governor. “Idiot” came in second place, with 51 responses, and “embarrassment” came in third, with 36 responses.

It’s not all bad news for the governor, though: “Honest” was next, with 35 showings. But I think you could make an argument that including the four appearances of “trustworthy” or “truthful” shows that “honesty” is a more common theme than “embarrassment.” “Strong” or some variation thereof, such as “strong-minded,” appeared 19 times



This word cloud represents the responses of nearly 1,000 Mainers when asked to describe their sentiments about U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in a single word.

For Michaud, “honest” was the runaway winner, with 66 respondents choosing that word to describe the Congressman. (That sentiment was also reflected in the 11 respondents who chose “trustworthy,” “trusted” or “truthful.”) Forty-three respondents chose “liberal” to describe Michaud, while “Liar” showed up 26 times. Another 25 respondents chose “political” or “politician.”


This word cloud represents the responses of nearly 1,000 Mainers when asked to describe their sentiments about independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler in a single word.

Eliot Cutler is best described by the word “independent” according to 55 of the poll’s respondents. But I actually don’t think it’s the most common sentiment about the independent candidates. “Smart,” and “smartest” combine for 37 while “intelligent” was used 26 times. At a combined tally of 63, I think voters are most fixated on Cutler’s mental prowess. Less positively for him, “Arrogant” and “Spoiler” are tied with 27 appearances each.


Why did the results come in the way they did? For the major-party candidates, it would be easy to say that political rhetoric has driven these word associations. The governor’s critics often cast him as an embarrassing bully, while words like “liberal” and “politician” have been thrown at Michaud as if they were bombs for months.

But this is a sort of chicken-or-the-egg situation. Sure, several of the top responses to the Democratic or Republican nominee mirror the attacks against him by the other. But maybe those attacks are used because they resonate with voters. The political parties do extensive message testing before and during the campaign, so it’s not unlikely that they pick the attacks that reflect concerns that already exist among the electorate. It’s probably a little of both.

Cutler’s are the most interesting, though.

Because Michaud ignored the independent’s candidacy for so long and LePage has reserved his barbs for Michaud, Cutler has been left largely to define himself. I think that’s probably why “independent” — and obvious word association — was so prevalent. Same story for “smart” or “intellectual,” as Cutler is pretty clearly a bright guy.

But that cuts both ways. If the frequency with which Cutler’s independence and brains are mentioned are true representations of voters’ actual opinions, untarnished by attack ads or narrative crafting by his opponents, then so too are the less flattering descriptions, such as “arrogant.”

“Spoiler” is probably the one exception to this idea, as conversation about Cutler’s effect on the race — with Democrats fearing that his candidacy could split the anti-LePage vote, thus re-electing the governor — have been one of the key hallmarks of this campaign. This week, it caught up with Cutler, who gave his supporters his blessing to vote for one of his opponents if they thought a vote on him was wasted.

Which words would you use to describe the candidates? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


In LePage’s Maine, health coverage looks more like the South than New England

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

The year’s governor’s race will clearly and indisputably affect how many Mainers will have health coverage and thus how many will suffer and die prematurely.

A map, based on data from Civis Analytics and Enroll America, shows health insurance coverage by county.

While every state but New England has counties in the 0-10% and 10-12% ranges, nearly all of Maine is above 12%.

As a news report on this data notes, state policies and governors really matter:

That state boundaries are so prominent in the map attests to the power of state policy in shaping health insurance conditions. The most important factor in predicting whether an American who had no insurance in 2013 signed up this year was whether the state that person lives in expanded its Medicaid program in 2014. 

Maine looks more like the South than New England.

In fact, nearly all of the Northeast looks better than Maine. The closest of the northeastern states to Maine is Pennsylvania, another state that hasn’t expanded Medicaid.

As this graphic shows, the decision to expand Medicaid had a huge impact on how many people got covered.

Given their strong ideological opposition to public health insurance, perhaps it’s not surprising that both Gov. LePage and Pennsylvania’s governor hired Gary Alexander to advise them on health policy.

Pennsylvania’s Auditor General was shocked Maine had hired Alexander, since his office has turned up problems with his work. LePage allies then mounted an attack on the Auditor. Alexander went on to produce shoddy, plagiarized work.

Overall, the “national uninsured rate for adults under 65 fell to 11 percent from 16 percent.” Ten million got coverage and therefore have a greater chance to live longer, healthier lives.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Maine people have been left behind.

Sorry, early Cutler voters; There’s no getting your ballot back

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Independent candidate for governor Eliot Cutler. BDN file photo by Kevin Bennett.

Eliot Cutler may have given his blessing for supporters to vote for someone else come Election Day, but that doesn’t mean the state of Maine will let early voters take back their ballots.

The independent candidate said at a news conference yesterday that given his long odds of winning the election — our new BDN/Ipsos poll has him trailing his opponents by 30 points — his supporters should “vote their conscience,” even if that means voting for Republican Gov. Paul LePage or Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.

That makes things complicated for Cutler supporters who have voted early. Since Cutler’s announcement, the state has fielded calls from several such voters who want to take their ballots back, said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat.

Unfortunately, he said, they’re out of luck.

In Maine voters can request absentee ballots as early as 90 days before the polls open, and as long as they return their ballots by 8 p.m. on Election Day, their votes will count. The state has already issued more than 120,000 absentee ballots, Dunlap said, and as of Wednesday night, 85,000 had already been returned.

Maine law allows absentee voters to request another ballot if theirs has been “spoiled.”

In 2010, chaos ensued when Cutler surged at the 11th hour, prompting those who had voted early to try to reverse their ballots. The state’s rules on changing an absentee vote were “ambiguous,” at the time, Dunlap said, so the state did what it could to work with voters.

Dunlap said that after LePage won and Republicans swept both chambers of the Legislature, lawmakers clarified Maine’s election rules to say that “changing your mind” is not a sufficient reason to say your ballot had been spoiled. They also instituted a rule stating that a ballot could not be considered “spoiled” after it had been submitted.

If a Cutler supporter — or any other voter — has filled out an absentee ballot but not yet mailed it in, they can request a new one. But if they’ve already sealed the envelop and submitted their votes, there isn’t any option left to them.

In other words, Dunlap said: “The punch line is this: If you’ve already voted, and sent your ballot in, you’re done.”

PACs dump another $1.2 million into Maine governor’s race

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Wondering how to blow $1.2 million in two days? Try a whole lot of TV ads.

At least, that’s how seven political action committees spent their $1.2 million over the last two days, according to the latest filings with the Maine Ethics Commission.

Most of that spending — about $852,000 — went to benefit the campaign of Democrat Mike Michaud, who is locked in a dead heat against incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage, according to a BDN/Ipsos poll released today.

The spending above — filed on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 — puts home a point that I’ve mentioned almost too many times now: the cash is only going to start flowing faster the closer we get to Election Day.

The same trends we’ve noted before continue here: a group of different PACs is spending to support Michaud (and oppose LePage) and LePage’s outside help comes only from the Republican Governors Association, in the form of supportive TV ads.

Groups hoping Michaud becomes the next governor have sought to nix goodwill toward LePage, spending more heavily on TV ads to oppose him than to support Michaud.

(Click any PAC or spending type in the ad above to see for yourself how the spending breaks down.)

It’s also noteworthy that the Campaign for Maine — supporting independent Eliot Cutler — joined in the spending push in an area that is dear to my heart, but uncommon for outside spending so far: print advertisements.

In reports filed by PACs on Oct. 21, the amount spent on print was a pretty slim $1,500.

New Question 1 poll shows near tie, voter confusion

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

A recent survey commissioned by the YES on 1 campaign, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, shows that Maine is split over the upcoming referendum to ban the use of bait, traps and dogs to hunt bear, and there seems to be some confusion among voters about what voting “yes” or “no” actually means.

A black bear walks near Taylor Bait Pond in Orono. Photo courtesy of Sharon Fiedler

The survey was conducted by Lake Research Partners, a public opinion and political strategy research firm based in Washington, D.C., with offices located throughout the U.S.

The firm administered the survey by phone Oct. 26-28 and reached a total of 700 people generated from a list of registered voters in Maine.

This survey, unlike some previous public polls, used the actual language of Question 1 as it will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The interviewers were instructed to read the following: “This November, there will be a measure on the statewide ballot in Maine. It is called Question 1 and it reads: Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs, or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety, or for research? Would you vote YES or NO on this question?”

To date, 45 percent voted “yes” and 47 percent voted “no.”

However, after recording their answer, the interview asked a follow up question: “Just to be clear, do you think your vote was to STOP the use of bait, dogs, or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety, or research, or to continue to ALLOW these practices?”

When asked to clarify what they meant to do regarding Question 1, 51 percent of voters said they wanted to stop these practices while 42 percent want to continue them, and 7 percent replied that they “don’t know.”

Both landlines and cellphones were called. The data were weighted slightly by gender, region, race, and party registration. The margin of error for the total sample for each survey is +/–3.7% and larger for the sub-groups and split sample questions.

Ebola, Senate control and apologies all part of final Senate debate

Press Herald Politics -

In their final debate, Sen. Susan Collins and Shenna Bellows went back and forth Wednesday over the tone of the campaign, the implications of a Republican-controlled Senate and whether Maine’s Ebola quarantine was justified or political posturing.

Both Collins, a Republican, and her Democratic challenger were poised yet assertive during the sit-down debate hosted by WCSH’s Pat Callaghan.

Perhaps the most striking disparity of the night was in response to the LePage administration’s quarantine policy for a Maine nurse who worked with Ebola patients in West Africa.

Fort Kent resident Kaci Hickox, who recently returned from treating Ebola patients but has shown no signs of infection with the deadly disease, vowed on national television earlier Wednesday not to abide by the 21-day home quarantine. The administration of Gov. Paul LePage responded by saying it would go to court to enforce the quarantine.

Collins backed LePage’s decision while criticizing the Obama administration for sending mixed messages.

“States have the right under the current system to adopt stricter quarantine laws in the interest of protecting public health,” Collins said, noting that other states have done the same. “I think the State of Maine has acted appropriately. I would hope that this very brave nurse, who went to West Africa and deserves great credit for that, would think about her neighbors in Fort Kent, would think about the community and would voluntarily self-quarantine herself.”

Bellows, after being pressed again for an answer from Callaghan, said she sees politics in LePage’s actions.

“I think Governor LePage is politicizing this situation and his suggestion that he would arrest this nurse in Fort Kent is election-year politics at its worst,” Bellows said. She then noted that the New England Journal of Medicine warned that a 21-day mandatory quarantine could make the crisis worse by discouraging people from working in Africa to help stop the growing Ebola epidemic.

But while both candidates repeatedly criticized their opponent’s positions, the debate began with something unusual in today’s campaigns: apologies.

Collins, responding to a question from Callaghan about the campaign tone, personally apologized to Bellows for the fact that a staffer tweeted during Monday’s debate that Bellows was “acting like a disrespectful twit.” Bellows, in turn, acknowledged that she misspoke when she said Collins had supported a controversial budget by House Republican Paul Ryan when she hadn’t.

But any feel-good sentiments were short lived. Collins accused Bellows of “misrepresenting my record over and over again” while Bellows repeated her campaign theme that “when it really matters, you voted with Republicans too much.”

Other highlights from the WCSH debate that did not come up during previous debates include:

Who should be in charge of the Senate next year?

Collins believes the country would be served better if Republicans – under Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ken. – control the Senate because McConnell has vowed to allow more debate and votes on bills than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Bellows countered by noting that McConnell, in a private speech to donors that was subsequently leaked to the press, promised to block votes for student loan reform, raising the minimum wage and to gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She said “a vote for Susan is a vote for the status quo.”

How would you rate President Obama’s performance on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest?

Bellows: 10 on civil rights but a 2 on surveillance and privacy.

Collins: 4

Mandatory paid sick time for employees?

Bellows: “Yes.”

Collins: “Undecided . . . I think it’s a good idea but I would want to see an exemption for very small businesses.”

What living person do you most admire:

Collins: The new pope because “he is making a huge difference by making the Catholic Church far more welcoming and inclusive.”

Bellows: Her mom because “she works hard, she is honest and she is such an inspiration to me.”


Dirigo Blue 2014 Election Contest

Dirigo Blue -

I’m glad I waited to post this until after today’s announcement by Eliot Cutler that he is kind of sort of dropping out of the gubernatorial race. And then Sen. Angus King dropped his bomb!

But here it is – the Dirigo Blue 2014 Election Contest, your chance to win fabulous prizes.

Your task is to slot the candidates in the following races in order of finish, including the percentage of the votes they receive. The entry closest to the actual percent totals will receive a Dirigo Blue sweatshirt (or item of lesser value), and second and third closest will receive a coveted Dirigo Blue coffee mug (which are for sale!).

The Races

Governor: Eliot Cutler, Paul LePage, and Mike Michaud
US Senate: Shenna Bellows and Susan Collins
US House 1st District: Isaac Misiuk, Richard Murphy and Chellie Pingree
US House 2nd District: Emily Cain, Bruce Poliquin and Blaine Richardson

Tie breaker: Number of Maine Senate seats won by Democrats

Please post your entry in the comments section below (do not send me an email). Should two entries be the same, the one with the earliest time stamp will be official.

Have fun – don’t over-think this. And don’t even think about suing me over the contest rules!!

Angus King endorsed Michaud. How much does it matter?

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Angus King released a statement today that he is switching his endorsement from Eliot Cutler to Mike Michaud. You can read the full statement at the bottom of this post.

Does it matter? In brief, yes.

On a day that Cutler said voters should vote their consciences, the most high-profile supporter he had said he was doing just that.

Moreover, King is a politician who has very high approval ratings in Maine.

It’s consequential in part because of the substance of the endorsement.

King makes it clear that he’s not just doing this for strategic reasons, but that he also sees Michaud as someone who will make a fine governor for Maine.

Here’s the key paragraph laying out his views about Michaud.

I have worked with Mike Michaud for twenty years and know that he has what it takes to be Maine’s next Governor. He has lived the American dream — going from the mill floor in Millinocket to the halls of Congress — and he knows in his heart that everyone, willing to work for it, deserves a chance to get ahead. Mike believes in protecting our environment and finding new ways to grow Maine’s economy and, as I have seen first-hand, is absolutely tenacious in defending Maine’s interests.

You might ask, though, is this more important than King’s initial endorsement of Cutler?


The first endorsement was much earlier in the cycle, before Labor Day. This is less than a week before the election.

In addition, the earlier endorsement was expected since King had endorsed Cutler for governor before and then Cutler endorsed King for his Senate race.

Moreover, the first endorsement and Cutler’s candidacy had to contend with various conditions holding him back — Michaud’s long history with Maine voters, an organized party and groups against him, and the element of strategic voting for anybody-but-LePage voters.

This matters because it is a signal to Cutler voters that it is ok to give up their support and it provides a substantive argument in addition to the strategic element.

It is most certainly political consequential.

Full text of King’s statement

“Eliot Cutler is a fine man who would make a good governor of our state. He is a friend who I believe would be a true consensus builder, ready to put solutions ahead of politics. My feelings about Eliot on these matters have not changed since I endorsed his candidacy four years ago and again this past August.

“But, like Eliot, I too am a realist. After many months considering the issues and getting to know the candidates, it is clear that the voters of Maine are not prepared to elect Eliot in 2014.

“The good news is that we still have a chance to elect a governor who will represent the majority of Maine people: my friend and colleague, Mike Michaud. And today, I’d like to offer him my support.

“I have worked with Mike Michaud for twenty years and know that he has what it takes to be Maine’s next Governor. He has lived the American dream — going from the mill floor in Millinocket to the halls of Congress — and he knows in his heart that everyone, willing to work for it, deserves a chance to get ahead. Mike believes in protecting our environment and finding new ways to grow Maine’s economy and, as I have seen first-hand, is absolutely tenacious in defending Maine’s interests.

“This was not an easy decision, but I think the circumstances require that those of us who have supported Eliot look realistically at the options before us at this critical moment in Maine history.

“In the end, I believe that what drives us to the polls should be hope – not fear; what calls us to participate in the political dialogue should be optimism – not cynicism; and what informs our decision to vote for the Governor of Maine should be the belief in a system of government where every vote counts.”

Maine’s pernicious polls

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

There is a direct correlation between a person’s involvement and interest in politics and how much time and effort he spends obsessing over polls. Being hungry for information and obsessed with the horse race, polls are catnip that we simply cannot resist.

Ask any observer of Maine politics what the state of the gubernatorial race is today, and undoubtedly they will repeat some conventional wisdom about the race, which is built in large part on public opinion surveys of Maine voters.

I am as guilty of it as anyone else. Even the most involved campaign operative is only exposed to a tiny fraction of the voting public. There is no way any of us truly knows, from personal experience, what the will of the voter is. If we didn’t have polls to tell us what to think about who is winning or who is losing, it would be very difficult to construct a clear picture from what we hear from people.

That’s because even the broadest political experience is a version of tunnel vision. That is why candidates who are losing big in races can tell you with a straight face, “everywhere I go, I hear from people how much they don’t like my opponent, and how excited they are to vote for me in this race.”

The reality is, all candidates and campaign operatives live in a bubble, and seeing the truth about those outside the bubble is impossible.

Recently, I saw a Democratic field staffer proudly proclaim that he would take the field team assembled by the Michaud campaign over what the Republicans have assembled.

Putting aside the obvious partisan posturing, how would anyone feel comfortable enough saying that? Unless you are simultaneously experiencing both campaigns and their field teams, you can’t really judge who has the better, more effective team.

This election season, specifically, such confidence should be unfounded, as the Republican ground game is as good as it has been in my living memory. But that is neither here nor there.

This works in reverse, of course. I can’t even begin to tell you how many Republican operatives insisted to me that the ground team assembled by the Romney presidential campaign was unlike anything they had ever seen before and was far and away superior to the Obama operation and to what McCain assembled four years prior. It would carry them to victory, they said.

Point being, personal perception is narrow and can’t tell you much of anything about the race. That’s where polls come in. Polls are our only real indication of how things are going.

Those on the left and the right, again including me, obsess over arguing about how accurate or inaccurate they are, quibbling over one point here or one point there based entirely on their own perception of the race and what they think is truly happening out there, coupled with who they want to win.

It never fails. An unexpected big lead for the candidate you like comes out, and the poll is indicative of a major shift in the race. Your opponents are doomed. An unexpected big lead for the candidate you do not like comes out, and the poll is an outlier that isn’t showing you what is really happening in the race.

All of which is wasted time, and effort. As the old adage goes, the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day, and polls are so frequently inaccurate that they don’t particularly deserve to be obsessed over.

In 2013, for instance, in the Virginia gubernatorial race between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe, virtually every public poll available had McAuliffe up by anywhere from seven to 11 points. The polls led to depressed fundraising for Cuccinelli (who wants to invest in an electoral impossibility?) and horrible morale.

All of which turned out to be completely unjustified when on Election Day, McAuliffe won the race by only two points. I wonder what would have happened had there been no polls and people would have just behaved according to their beliefs and interests?

And of course, in the 2010 governor’s race, the two final polls of the race (from PPP and Critical Insights) showed Paul LePage up by 12 and 19 points, respectively, and that race almost went to a recount.

So as you consider who will earn your vote on Tuesday, it is worth unplugging the computer, turning off the television, and just voting for whomever you like the most, without any regard for anything else. Certainly not polls.

The only poll that matters is on Election Day.

Collins and Bellows to face off one last time tonight after four lively debates

Press Herald Politics -

Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democrat Shenna Bellows will square off one last time tonight during the final televised debate before Election Day.

If the four previous debates are any indication, tonight’s event should be spirited and fast-paced. The debate will be aired live on WCSH6 in Portland from 7:30 to 8 p.m.

This is Bellows’ last chance to challenge Collins face to face – something the Democrat has done repeatedly during the previous debates as she attempts to chip away at Collins’ reputation as a moderate Republican. Collins, in turn, has accused Bellows of distorting her record and usually had specific examples from her 18 years in the Senate to counter Bellows’ jabs.

Despite an aggressive campaign, Bellows has continued to trail far behind Collins in the polls, illustrating the Republican’s popularity in Maine. The two candidates have had a number of tense exchanges during the debates; their campaigns, meanwhile, have used social media throughout the debates to accuse the other side of all sorts of falsehoods.

In an indication of the feistiness of the campaign, Collins spokesman Lance Dutson wrote on his Twitter feed during the WGME debate that Bellows was “acting like a disrespectful twit.” He later apologized for the “inappropriate” remark but not before Bellows supporters seized on it.

You can find our coverage of the first two debates by WAGM in Presque Isle and the Maine Public Broadcasting Network here and here.

The last two debates – hosted by WMTW in Auburn and WGME/Bangor Daily News in Portland – have produced some noteworthy exchanges on issues such as the minimum wage, national security, defense spending and environmental regulation.

For instance, the two candidates had very different takes during the WMTW debate on whether Edward Snowden — the former National Security Agency contractor who released troves of documents on NSA domestic surveillance to the media — has made the country more or less safe.

“Edward Snowden is a whistleblower,” said Bellows, a former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. “His actions have not made us less safe. What they have revealed is an extraordinary, sweeping surveillance complex. We need to get back to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

Collins, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee and is a former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, countered that Snowden “is no hero.”

“We have received testimony that he took information that will endanger our troops because it has to do with military secrets as well as intelligence secrets. And just today the former deputy director of the CIA has said that our ability to monitor these terrorists groups has been greatly diminished because they have changed their methods due to the revelations of Edward Snowden.”

The full exchange can be seen around the 42:25 minute mark in WMTW’s video of the debate, which is available here.

At the WGME debate, the two dueled over the national debt and defense spending.

“Our investments should be in the economy, education and health care here at home and we should cut spending for defense,” Bellows said. “We should stop spending billions of dollars spying on ordinary Americans and we should stop spending billions of dollars incarcerating more people . . . than any other country per capita in the world.”

Collins noted, in response to Bellows criticisms, that she has voted five times to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans. She called for cutting subsidies to wealthy farmers and for ending tax breaks for large oil companies but not additional defense cuts.

“We are living in a very dangerous world, a world where experts tell us the terrorist threat has never been higher and yet we have already implemented cuts of $800 billion in the defense budget,” Collins said. “We are a state that makes an enormous contribution to our national security and we have some 20,000 direct and indirect jobs that depend on defense spending, defense spending that we need in this country.”

The exchange starts around the 3:15 minute mark in the following video:

Confused by Eliot Cutler’s press conference? Join the club.

Press Herald Politics -

It’s a good bet that many who watched independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler’s press conference Wednesday will be perplexed by his remarks. The event was initially billed as something of a quasi-concession, although not a formal withdrawal. Both actions have real implications for Mainers who have already voted for Cutler.

Then Cutler began speaking. What unfolded were statements both defiant and, at times, seemingly contradictory.

Cutler said his supporters should vote their conscience and, if necessary, their “fears,” while also blasting a campaign “locked in the grip of fear.”

Asked about a group of former supporters who were holding a press conference to explain why they were switching their allegiance to Democrat Mike Michaud, Cutler accused one of them, prolific Democratic donor Bobby Monks, who served as Cutler’s campaign treasurer for part of the 2010 campaign, of “turning tail” and running four years ago.

He said he was realistic about his chances for victory, which he described as a “long shot.” Yet he repeatedly maintained that he could still win and that he plans to campaign through Election Day. He also criticized the polls showing him running a distant third in the race, but presumably those polls, and his own internal tracking surveys, informed his decision to hold the press conference.

It was confusing, so confusing that Cutler’s campaign issued an FAQ later to clarify the whole thing.

At one point I asked him what this announcement meant for the people who have already voted for him by absentee ballot and to characterize his remarks. His response is captured in the video.

The full audio of his press conference and the followup question can be heard here


Angus King: RGA ad boosting Cutler tries to ‘trick people’

Press Herald Politics -


U.S. Sen. Angus King endorsed Eliot Cutler in August.

U.S. Sen. Angus King endorsed independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler in August.

Remember? No, well good news, the Republican Governors Association has arrived with a reminder. The spot has been blasted by Democrats as another attempt by Republicans to boost Cutler’s candidacy, which recent polls have shown is either stagnant or losing ground to Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. Even Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd took notice.

King  may be supporting Cutler, but he’s not thrilled that he’s used in the RGA ad. After all, King is familiar with the tactic. In the 2012 U.S. Senate race, Maine Freedom an outside group – ironically with ties to the RGA — attempted to defeat King by dividing the Democratic and center-left vote by running an ad touting Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill. Dill was running a distant third at the time and Republican candidate Charlie Summers was attempting to chip into King’s lead.

At the time, King called the 2012 ad deceptive. Even though he’s supporting Cutler this year, he had similar reaction to the new RGA ad.

Reached by phone Tuesday, King said, “I think these ads aren’t honest. They’re trying to promote one candidate when they’re really trying to promote someone else. It’s a left-handed way of campaigning. … I just think it’s one more indication of where our politics has gone. We can’t have an open and honest discussion of the issues. Instead we’re trying to trick people.”

He added, “Needless to say, I don’t like being used in it, but it’s a free country and my words were made publicly so I suppose they can use them.”

King has not appeared in any ads for Cutler’s campaign since September. He noted that he didn’t cut the ad, but the Cutler campaign used footage from the endorsement announcement.

“They basically used the materials from my public statements and created the ad,” he said. “They didn’t ask me to do anything more than that.”

King has also endorsed U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Emily Cain, the Democratic candidate running for the 2nd Congressional District.

On Tuesday, the Cain campaign announced that King would appear in a new radio ad.

“I did do a radio spot with Emily, but it’s not trying to trick people into voting for somebody else,” King said.


A week before the election, the Republican Governors Association puts out ad touting Cutler

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Gov. Christie and Gov. LePage at Christie’s third Maine visit for LePage’s reelection. Photo credit: Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal

Today New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is having his fourth Maine visit to support Gov. LePage’s reelection — although again these men aren’t holding a rally anyone can attend.

Instead they’ll do a meet and greet with some voters at Quirk Auto Park in Bangor and then have a fundraiser. This is quite a contrast to the open events Michaud’s campaign has had with high profile visitors such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama and, soon, President Obama.

Christie comes back to Maine as the organization he heads, the Republican Governors Association, is running a tv ad for Eliot Cutler. 

You can see it this link, where national reporter Chuck Todd writes:

3-way races create strange bedfellows, RGA’s latest TV ad tries to boost Cutler to keep the anti-LePage vote split.

Sure, the ad attacks Michaud as well. But its comparison is to Cutler.

LePage is never mentioned. You can see that the RGA paid for the ad in small letters at the end.

As reporter Daniel Strauss puts it:

If a new ad is any indication, the Republican Governors Association wants to focus on Maine Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mike Michaud than Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

Before this tv ad from the RGA, the Maine Republican Party paid for and distributed pro-Cutler flyers.

The ad comes as the race is tied between Michaud and LePage, with Cutler far behind.

Moreover, in the new Pan-Atlantic poll, Cutler fell 7 percentage points as Michaud gained 6 points. Michaud appears to be picking up voters from Cutler.

Along with other recently released polls, this adds up to a tied race, as seen in one leading poll aggregator.

2014 Maine Governors race polls. See all polls at http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2014-maine-governor-lepage-vs-michaud-vs-cutler

At this point, Republicans are doing more and more to try to split the anti-LePage vote.

It’s also interesting that while Michaud has had multiple visitors from away, LePage has had only one – Christie. Why?

As mentioned already, Christie is coming as part of his job as the head of the Republican Governors Association. Sure, there are things these men have in common, including temperamental similarities. And of course they’re both Republicans.

Also Christie may be running for president and media coverage in Maine and nearby New Hampshire could be helpful for his primary prospects. By the way, polls show him 9-10 percentage points behind Hillary Clinton, a recent visitor for Michaud, in a 2016 general election match-up.

So why are other Republicans not coming?

Some are not suited for Maine’s politics. For example, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is far, far to the right and could turn off moderate voters.

But more moderate Republicans haven’t shown up — with the exception of the RGA’s Christie. While President George H.W. Bush put out a press release endorsing LePage, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has not dropped by to add his voice.

When I talked to a politically savvy Republican friend about this, it was suggested that many national Republicans in synch with Maine’s moderate general electorate might not want to be linked to the fiery, far-right LePage.

What do you think?

LePage campaign drops $100,000 on mailers, prepares TV ad

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Marking the likely start of late campaign spending from the GOP, Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s campaign on Monday afternoon reported spending about $100,000 for mailings to voters and another $4,120 for production of a TV ad.

The spending comes as ads paid for by the Republican Governors Association attacking Democrat Mike Michaud — to the tune of about $593,543 — hit the airwaves.

It bodes of a late surge in ads from the RGA and LePage’s campaign this week. Ads late in the campaign have become a regular feature and complaint in recent election years, with ethics violations assessed in 2011 over an out-of-state Republican PAC’s late independent expenditure filings during the 2010 election.

Now, it’s difficult to correlate a batch of spending indicated in an independent expenditure report to a specific ad, but here’s what we know: the RGA spent $357,218 on an attack ad against Michaud on Oct. 17. It spent another $236,325 for ads to oppose Michaud Oct. 9, making that $593,543 I mentioned before.

The most recent expenditure from RGA Maine’s PAC was on Oct. 23, with $282,654 for ads supporting LePage.

Given the weeks since the latest spending to oppose Michaud, the RGA unveiled the latest such attack ad today. While the timing of an ad’s release in relation to the date of the filed expenditure can vary based a variety of things, there have been about 127 independent expenditure filings with the Maine Ethics Commission since the RGA’s Oct. 17 opposition buy against Michaud.

It tells of much more to hit the airwaves from Democratic and Republican groups, and the Campaign for Maine PAC supporting independent Eliot Cutler, which spent $100,000 on a TV ad Monday.

Those expenditures will be filed fast and furious in the week ahead, as campaigns are required to report any contributions and expenditures at or more than $1,000 up through Election Day.

The LePage campaign is the only one to file any 24-hour reports Monday, documenting a few thousand in contributions and the $104,809.50 for mailers and TV ad production. All of that went to Littlefield Consulting, the DC-based consultancy led by Penobscot County native Brent Littlefield, who was also a senior adviser to LePage’s winning 2010 campaign.

With the expenditure Monday, Littlefield and his firm have received about one-quarter of all of the LePage campaign’s expenses, primarily for campaign consulting and television ads.


‘No on 1′ asks TV stations: Stop airing pro-bear referendum ‘Hounds’ ad

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Manager of the No on 1 campaign, James Cote, sent a letter to television stations today, asking them to stop airing what he sees as a “false, misleading and deceptive” pro-bear referendum ad.

Entitled “Hounds,” the ad shows blurry footage of a pack of hunting dogs chasing a bear. Cote’s issue with the ad lies in the number of dogs shown. At one point, the ad shows eight dogs in the pack, Cote said. Maine statues prohibit the use of “6 or more dogs” while hunting bear.

§11302. Hunting bear with dogs

1. Limit on number of dogs. A person may not, while either hunting alone or hunting with other persons, use more than 6 dogs at any one time to hunt bear. [ 2009, c. 550, §4 (AMD) .]

On Nov. 4, Question 1 will ask voters: “Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety, or for research?”

“While both parties in this debate may disagree passionately about the hunting policy in Maine, neither side should be allowed to rewrite statutes and mislead the public about the current state of the law,” Cote wrote in the letter to the TV stations.

Cote then quoted a public notice from the Federal Communications Commission from Nov. 7, 1961, which states that a broadcast licensee’s “duty to protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising.”

A spokesperson from the YES on 1 campaign, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, was not immediately available for comment.

The “Hounds” ad is also available online, hosted by Mainers for the Fair Bear Hunting YouTube channel.

This request directly followed a similar request made by the Yes on 1 campaign. On Monday, Katie Hansberry, director of the Yes on 1 campaign, sent a letter to Cote asking him to take down a television ad that features a woman who was attacked by a black bear in Florida earlier this year.

Cote replied to her letter and rejected her request.

In new poll, Pan Atlantic used wrong wording for Question 1, retracts results

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Poll results released today by Pan Atlantic SMS has been retracted due to inaccurate wording of Question 1.

The poll asked: “Do you want to make it a crime to hunt bears with bait, traps or dogs, except to protect property, public safety, or for research?”

Instead, the final Question 1 wording, which will appear on the Nov. 4 Maine ballot is as follows: “Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety, or for research?”

“When we did our last poll, the wording [of Question 1] hadn’t been finalized,” said Patrick Murphy, president of Pan Atlantic SMS Group. “So the error was because one of the folks here just reinserted the previous wording.”

“The recent poll used the wrong ballot question language, not what the voters will see on election day and therefore the results are not representative of the strong support for a Yes vote on Question 1,” said Katie Hansberry, director for the YES on 1 campaign. “We can feel the momentum and believe Maine voters want to ban the cruel and unsporting practices of bear baiting, hounding, and trapping.” James Cote, director for the No of 1 campaign, was not immediately available for comment.

Wording is everything, so Pan Atlantic SMS Group will not be posting the results of the poll on their website. However, the group did send the poll to media outlets Tuesday morning, before the error was discovered.

The poll found that there is a 9 percentage point margin between those voting “no” and “yes.” More specifically,

  • 47.8 percent voted “no”
  • 37.1 percent voted “yes”
  • 4.6 percent were undecided but leaning toward “yes”
  • 3.1 percent were undecided but leaning toward “no”
  • and 7.3 percent were undecided and refused to say which way they were leaning.

Murphy said they will not be conducting another poll on Question 1 before Election Day.

Earlier this month, the Portland Press Herald made the same wording mistake as Pan Atlantic in the third poll they conducted for the general election. PPH used the word “crime,” which will not be used in Question 1 in November. You can view the incorrect wording on page 20 of the poll at www.documentcloud.org/documents/1346517-portland-press-herald-poll-oct-26-2014.html#document/p1.

Psst, your neighbors vote. Will you?

Press Herald Politics -

Some Maine voters are receiving mailers  that advocate not for a candidate, but for voting.

With over $10.4 million spent on political advertisements telling Mainers who to vote for, who not to vote for and who can’t win, one would think voters are so bludgeoned that some will decide to stay home. This is a bad outcome for political parties, particularly Maine Democrats, who have been pumping up their voter mobilization in an effort to match, or overtake, Republicans in the midterm election.

So after a bunch of mailers and television advertisements designed to evoke dread and anger, groups want to make sure that certain voters actually vote. And how are they doing it?

By using that old social desirability trick.

Check out the mailer above. It doesn’t endorse or oppose a specific candidate. It advocates for voting – “Be a voter,” it says. It does so by comparing the recipient’s voting participation to their neighbors. In this case, the voter is an active voter, but I’ve seen a few of these in which the recipient isn’t as active as their neighbors. The idea is to trigger some sense of guilt or an innate need to keep pace with your neighbors. Political campaigns have been using this method for some time. So have some utility companies, which in some states send ratepayers bills that compare their electricity usage to their neighbors, an effort designed to get consumers to conserve energy.

So how does America Votes, a D.C.-based group that partners with progressive organizations, know the above recipient’s voter history? Voter information is confidential. However, Maine and other states allow political organizations and those that conduct voter mobilization efforts to access the Central Voter Registration database. The database has detailed information about your party registration, where you live, whether you voted in a primary or general election and how often. In other words, these groups know if you’ve voted or even if you’ve already requested and returned an absentee ballot.



Desperate Republican Governors Association has new TV ad promoting Eliot Cutler

Dirigo Blue -

Excepting a few outliers, polls of the Maine gubernatorial race have been relatively unchanged for months, showing Gov. Paul LePage (R) in a virtual tie with Rep. Mike Michaud (D) at 40%, with left-leaning unenrolled candidate Eliot Cutler in a distant third at around 15%. Cutler came in a close second to LePage in 2010 in a late surge as the Democratic Party candidate faded in the last week of the campaign.

While support for LePage among his base is strong, he has a hard ceiling of 40%. Thus, LePage’s only path to victory is for Michaud and Cutler to split the remaining votes.

Most polls so far have Michaud beating LePage in a two way race by five to eight points. With Michaud consistently polling in the high thirties, LePage needs a strong showing by Cutler to siphon votes from Michaud. For months, Maine Republican operatives have withheld any criticism of Cutler, while bashing Michaud at every opportunity. It’s become so obvious to politicos here that GOP shills are routinely called out for it on Twitter and other social media.

But this latest ad from the Republican Governors Association (RGA) makes it plain for all to see. For the unknowing, it would appear to be an ad directly from the Cutler campaign:

Gov. Paul LePage has been called “an embarrassment,” and his crass and crude statements are known nationwide. It is time to show LePage the door, and you can help by visiting Michaud for Governor.


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