September 23, 2010

AP photo by Pat Wellenbach

Paul LePage

LePage's lead widens, poll shows

By Rebekah Metzler
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA -- Paul LePage, Waterville mayor and Republican gubernatorial nominee, has extended his lead in the race governor to nearly 20 percentage points, according to a Rasmussen Report poll released Wednesday.

LePage received support from 45 percent of 500 likely Maine voters contacted Monday, according to the poll. The automated poll was conducted on landline phones only and has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

Senate President and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Libby Mitchell, received support from 27 percent of voters. Independent Eliot Cutler had support from 14 percent.

This poll shows LePage improving his lead from the last Rasmussen poll taken about a month ago. At that time, he had 38 percent of the vote, Mitchell had 30 and Cutler was third with 16.

None of the Rasmussen polls -- three of which have been conducted since the June primary -- asked voters about independent candidates Shawn Moody or Kevin Scott, but 4 percent of respondents in this latest poll said they preferred a candidate other than the top three.

Another 10 percent of likely voters said they were undecided.

Despite the widening gap between LePage and his rivals, his campaign said they were not taking anything for granted.

"We feel like we still have a lot of work to do, especially in light of the hundreds of thousands of additional taxpayer dollars in public funding (Mitchell) has yet to spend," said John Morris, LePage's chief of staff.

Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for Mitchell, said the new numbers reinforced their campaign's belief it is a two-person race.

"The race is going to come down between Mr. LePage and Libby Mitchell," he said. "As voters start to tune in through the last six weeks and understand the difference between Mr. LePage and Libby Mitchell's policies and plans for leading the state, they will see a stark difference and move toward our side."

Cutler's camp dismissed the notion that the new poll showed the Blaine House was out of reach to them.

"It's just another poll, we're still a long way from Election Day, and if you believed any of the polls back in the primary, we'd be running against Les Otten today," said Ted O'Meara, Cutler's campaign manager. "I think you have to take them all with a certain grain of salt and I think people should stay focused on the candidates and what they are saying, what they are proposing and what their ideas are for Maine. That's what's really important."

A recent independent poll from Critical Insights -- sponsored by MaineToday Media -- released Sunday showed LePage with 38 percent; Mitchell with 25 percent; Cutler with 11 percent; Moody with 4 percent; Scott with 1 percent.

Twenty-one percent of voters in that poll were undecided.

Rebekah Metzler -- 620-7016

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