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GOVERNOR'S RACE

September 9, 2010

Lead grows for LePage in latest poll

Waterville mayor now ahead of Mitchell 43 percent to 29 percent, according to firm

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

and Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA -- New poll results released Wednesday show Republican gubernatorial nominee Paul LePage leading the pack with 43 percent of the vote, an increase of five percentage points from a poll taken a month ago.

LePage, Waterville mayor, leads Democrat Libby Mitchell, who garnered 29 percent; independent Eliot Cutler, at 11 percent; independent Shawn Moody, 5 percent; and independent Kevin Scott, 1 percent, according to results released by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C.

A previous poll released by a different firm, Rasmussen Reports, had LePage at 38 percent in August.

"While Maine does have a peculiar history of independent governors and anti-establishment politics, you know things are bad for Democrats when this pretty reliably blue state in most other recent cycles is looking bad for the party at the gubernatorial level," said Dean Debnam, president of the polling firm, in a statement.

The company surveyed 1,468 likely Maine voters Sept. 2-6. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

The company was not paid by any campaign to poll in Maine. Instead, it solicited nominations on its blog for people to ask where they should poll next, and Maine finished in the top two last week, said Tom Jensen, spokesman for the firm.

Public Policy Polling, which has worked for Democrats and Democratic-leaning groups, targets voters who have voted in one of the last three general elections. It polls by automated phone call, which requires participants to push buttons to record their answers.

The poll was released the same day that the Democratic Governors Association began running ads critical of LePage for his stance on energy.

The ads show scenic images of Maine, then dramatically superimposes a nuclear power plant in one scene and an oil rig in another, citing LePage's support of nuclear power and oil drilling off the Maine coast.

"And he'd make the state Department of Environmental Protection friendlier to the developers and polluters," a female announcer says near the end of the 30-second spot. "Tell Paul LePage his pro-nuke, pro-drilling policies are wrong for Maine."

LePage political consultant Brent Littlefield said it's no accident that the Democratic Governors Association began attacking LePage as his poll numbers have increased.

"With poll numbers like this, we expect to see more of that in the future," he said.

David Loughran, spokesman for Mitchell, said the poll reinforced for the campaign that it's a two-person contest between LePage and Mitchell.

"I'm confident that, throughout the fall, the more voters learn about Libby and the more they learn about LePage, they'll cast their votes for Libby in the only poll that matters," he said.

Cutler campaign spokesman Ted O'Meara said the poll doesn't reflect what they are seeing in internal polls. They continue to see LePage and Mitchell slip as Cutler gains.

"(Cutler's) name recognition is still an issue for us," he said. "We started at zero and we've made great improvements, but we've still got a ways to go."

While the Democratic Governors Association launched an ad critical of LePage, the Republican Governors Association began an ad campaign of its own Wednesday that touts LePage's difficult childhood and fiscal conservatism.

The ad describes LePage's life story and his achievements as mayor of Waterville and as general manager at Marden's Surplus and Salvage.

"That's the kind of leader we need to clean up Augusta, so every Mainer can achieve their dreams," according to the ad.

The Republican Governors Association filed an independent expenditure report with the Maine ethics commission on Tuesday for $38,000.

The DGA and RGA are national groups that do not participate in every gubernatorial race in the country. Typically, they only spend money in close races.

Jensen, of Public Policy Polling, said their firm was the most accurate of the pollsters to track the gay-marriage repeal vote in Maine last November.

The final poll released by the firm indicated that the law would be repealed by a 51-47 percent vote, with 2 percent undecided. The actual vote was 53-47 percent in favor of repealing the law.

Jensen said they will likely not poll again in the Maine governor's race unless the gap narrows.

"This was not as close as we expected it to be," he said.

 

Susan Cover -- 620-7015

scover@mainetoday.com

Rebekah Metzler -- 620-7016

rmetzler@mainetoday.com

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