Maine's three-way gubernatorial race has boiled down to this: a majority of voters don't want Tea Party darling Paul LePage to lead the state, but they've had a hard time deciding what to do about it.
The large proportion of undecided voters in the race -- nearly thirty percent in some polls -- are resistant to voting for Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell, who has proudly run as the candidate of the status quo. They could line up behind centrist Independent candidate Eliot Cutler, but they've been paralyzed by the fear this will split the moderate vote, handing the Blaine House to LePage, a serial liar with socially conservative views, a hostility to environmental protection, and the political instincts of a small town street thug.
But recent polls suggest it is Mitchell who has become the real spoiler. The Critical Insights poll released last night confirms the trend: Cutler has doubled his support base to pull into a dead heat with Mitchell, who has been hemorrhaging support since the primaries. (Pine Tree Politics has posted a useful graph of the polling trends here.) Mitchell's candidacy is going nowhere because independents and moderate Republicans can't stomach her (notice she gained no supporters, even as LePage's support dove by fifteen percent in the aftermath of his public tantrums) and many progressives see her as part of the state's cozy Democratic establishment.
It's no accident that Cutler has won the endorsements of the state's leading newspaper (the historically conservative Bangor Daily News), the newspapers in Republican-friendly southern York County (the Seacoast group), the owner of the Village Soup weeklies in Waldo and Knox County (self-declared 'disruptor' Richard Anderson), and the decidedly liberal-progressive alt weekly, the Portland Phoenix. He's the only candidate with a hope of defeating Paul LePage.
[Update, 10/22/10, 15:00: The Brunswick Times-Record has just endorsed Cutler, noting Mitchell has not provided "persuasive evidence she’d be a different governor than fellow Democrat John Baldacci has been for eight years."]
[Update, 10/24/10, 07:50: The Portland Press Herald has also endorsed Cutler, saying "Mitchell – although a dedicated public servant – is not the agent of change Maine requires."]
[Update, 10/26/10, 09:00: The Lewiston Sun Journal has endorsed Cutler, while the Biddeford Journal endorses Mitchell, rounding out the Maine dailies. Not one of them supported LePage.]
[Update, 10/29/2010: There's a follow-up to this post here.]
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