Friday, August 27, 2010

Maine Governor Race

Race of the Day

Maine Governor

August 27, 2010
67 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Leans Republican

While Maine has gotten into the habit of sending very moderate Republicans to the U.S. Senate, the party has not elected a Governor since 1990. An Independent served eight years as Governor after the final GOP term, and for the past eight years, term-limited Democrat John Baldacci has served as the state's chief executive. This year though, Republicans look in fairly good shape to elect their first Governor in a generation, and a pretty conservative one at that.

A slew of candidates on both sides of the aisle had entered the race to succeed Baldacci and the two winners of the June primary were considered to be the most liberal Democrat and most conservative Republican. On the Democrat side, the candidate is State Senate President Libby Mitchell, who was first elected to her state's legislature in 1974 and her one previous statewide campaign was as the losing nominee for U.S. Senate in 1984. Her Republican opponent is Waterville Mayor Paul LePage, who was not considered to be one of the GOP frontrunners when he entered the field. Nonetheless, LePage was able to easily top the field and appears to have quite an interesting biography of rising from poverty.

On the surface, a Democrat leaning state like Maine would seem to less inclined to elect LePage, who is considered pretty conservative by Maine standards. The mood for change though may be propelling LePage who has continued to lead Mitchell in post primary polls by about eight points. In Gubernatorial contests, especially in state's like Maine, personality and local issues wind up mattering far more than the more divisive wedge issues, which pop up in races for Congress.

When it comes to Maine politics, especially in races for Governor, Independent candidates can play a large role. Two of them have even been elected, while the potential always exists for others to play the role of spoiler. A few Independent candidates will be on the ballot this year, but the leading one is Elliot Cutler, a businessman, who had served as aides to President Jimmy Carter and U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie. Cutler is trying to portray himself as the moderate in the and an alternative to voters who want an option other than a liberal Democrat or conservative Republican. Currently, Cutler is easily polling in the double digits, but is lagging in third place. With strong performances in debates or effective television advertisements, he could potentially jump into greater contention though.

All things considered, Cutler, and his Democrat background, seem most likely to harm Mitchell, to the benefit of LePage. I cannot claim to know what issues are most animating this election, but evidence suggests that LePage's personal connection with voters has him ahead currently. If the votes are desiring change, after so many years of a Republican not in charge in Augusta, that edge should continue to Election Day and a plurality victory.

LePage campaign site:

2010 Governor races predicted thus far: 4 D, 11 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 11 D, 17 R