A week ago, I argued here that the Maine gubernatorial race had boiled down to two facts: a majority of Mainers don't want Tea Party darling Paul LePage to win the race and (b) Democrat Libby Mitchell has become the spoiler, a candidate who can't win the race, but is splitting Maine's moderate majority sufficiently to put a volatile social conservative in the Blaine House.
A series of polls have since come out since confirming this analysis. The latest, made public hours ago, has Independent Eliot Cutler (31%) in striking distance of Mr. LePage (37%), with Ms. Mitchell falling to a distant third (22%.) It's worth noting that this poll comes to us from Pan Atlantic SMS Group, which is headed by longtime Maine Democratic Party chair Victoria Murphy and her husband, Patrick, and thus unlikely to have animus against Mitchell.
Polls earlier this week differed on how far LePage is ahead, but agreed that Mitchell's support is declining while Cutler's is surging. Pine Tree Politics has a graph of all the polls, save the new one, showing the trend since the primary. Yesterday's Public Policy Polling survey also confirmed that Mitchell is the least liked and most disliked candidate in the race, while Cutler is the most liked and least disliked, despite a barrage of negative advertising against him by the Republican Governors' Association, the Maine Democratic Party, and Emily's List (d.b.a. "Maine Women VOTE!") [PDF]
Indeed, the negative adverts appear to have backfired on the Democrats, who overstretched the truth in their anti-Culter pitch. (Example: they quote Culter saying "Governors don't create jobs," but leave off the rest of the quote "What governors and governments can do is create the conditions in which people and businesses will invest, prosper and create new jobs.") A senior party official, Democratic National Committeeman Sam Spencer condemned the Maine party's ads last week, amid a stream of unflattering stories on the more Sinophobic ads. (Mr. Spencer is Cutler's godson, but I don't doubt his integrity in matters of political principle: he was the only one of the 471 national DNC members to oppose the national party's stunning decision to retain superdelegates' ability to overrule voters earlier this year.) Mitchell had an opportunity to distance herself from the more absurd ads in the debates, but declined to do so.
Mainers who fear a LePage victory appear to have but one fruitful course of action open to them: uniting their support around Mr. Cutler.
[Update, 10/29/10, 14:30: Right-leaning Pine Tree Politics concurs, as does the proudly leftist Progressive Review (d.b.a. Coastal Packet)]
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