Latest Standings In Maine's Race For Governor
A new poll by Critical Insights in partnership with the MaineToday papers represents the final say on the first phase of the campaign for Maine governor.
The poll, taken on September 13th, was the last before the major advertising of the campaign began. (Cutler had run a few ads earlier and the DGA had been up on TV for one day, but for the most part the airwaves were clear) and gives us a good look at where the candidates are at the beginning of the most heated part of the campaign. It also reveals what they have to do to win.
The larger picture is that LePage is firmly in the driver’s seat with a commanding lead, confirmed by the results of other recent polls. He just needs to hold on to win.
Mitchell has a lot of ground to make up and she has to do it in more than one area. At the very least she has to shore up her own support, convince progressive voters to actually turn out to vote, bring in a huge percentage of the undecideds, and chip away at the support of her opponents. A very tall order, as any successful strategy will necessitate her striking in several directions at once.
The poll shows Cutler with 11 percent of the vote and very soft support (only 25 percent of those favoring him say they’ll definitely vote for the candidate, compared to 54 percent for Mitchell and 69 percent for LePage). At this point his campaign has to be hoping for some kind of race-changing event to get him back in the game. I’d imagine they’re also talking about how much more of his personal funds he wants to continue to spend.
One gets a different sense of Cutler’s chances in the coverage of the poll in the MaineToday papers, however. Their piece on the results has the pollster, Mary Ellen Fitzgerald, commenting on the high number of undecided voters, calling it a "stinging indictment of the traditional parties." She is also quoted as saying that “I think it sort of augurs better for the independents, even though the independents didn't fare well in this poll," and "I expect this will change drastically over the next few weeks."
Fitzgerald offers no evidence to support her conclusion that the undecided numbers are a reflection of dislike for major party candidates rather than a by-product of candidates that are relatively new to the electorate contesting an open-seat race. The toplines released show no questions about name recognition or candidate favorability.
Critical Insights has a history of having a higher number of undecideds than other polls with different methodologies. In 2006, during the last gubernatorial race, CI released a poll conducted on October 23rd (their only poll of the race) showing 11 percent of the electorate still undecided, even that close to the election. A poll conducted the day before by SurveyUSA found only 2 percent undecided.
It would have been useful for the papers to disclose that Critical Insights, Fitzgerald’s company, has done work for the Cutler campaign. Public expenditure reports show a $2,000 outlay on April 16th from the Cutler campaign to Critical Insights for “polling and survey research.”
That having been said, it’s great to see the MaineToday papers making a commitment to polling. The papers plan to sponsor three more polls before the election and it should be very useful to be able to examine the differences between several polls conducted over time by a Maine-based pollster using consistent questions and methods.
One last note: the poll asks a question on cultural/ethnic identity that I haven’t noticed in past Critical Insights polls and finds that 23 percent of respondents identified themselves as Franco-American. I’d be interested in the crosstabs for this question and candidate support, to see if LePage’s French heritage is helping him in this traditionally Democratic slice of the electorate.