Early endorsements and early polling in the race for Maine governor

photoThe Michaud campaign has announced another in a long line of early organizational endorsements in the race for governor. Maine Conservation Voters today held a press conference near the Penobscot River in Bangor to show their support.

“Mike’s story is one of political courage and environmental leadership,” said MCV  board chair Caroline Pryor in a release. “Mike said ‘enough is enough’ to the sludge being dumped into this great river by his own employer. He helped clean up the Penobscot, and in the Maine Legislature and in Congress he’s been a leader on dozens of environmental and economic policies. He’s a champion for clean air, land and water resources, for clean energy and keeping toxics out of the environment.”

The string of early endorsements by progressive, union, environmental and equality organizations (which includes MPA Campaign Vote, the PAC associated with the Maine People’s Alliance, for which I work) is unusual and has prompted some in the media to ask “what’s up?

The most obvious answer to that question is that these groups are determined not to have another three-way race lead to the re-election of Governor LePage. They’re weighing in early in an attempt to shorten the shadow primary between Michaud and Eliot Cutler for the votes of moderate and progressive Mainers.

While Cutler has a strong organization (although now somewhat weaker with the mysterious departure of field director Brandon Maheu) and plenty of money, he could use some institutional support in his corner. A late all-but-endorsement from EqualityMaine in 2010 is one of the key factors (along with some stumping from Angus King) that shifted momentum in his favor in the last few days and weeks of the race and allowed him to come so close to defeating LePage. That history is likely why the Cutler campaign responded in such a hyperbolic way to the LGBT rights group’s early endorsement of Michaud this time around.

In other gubernatorial news, it appears that the LePage campaign is in the field with a message testing poll. A call center owned by Venture Data, which contracts for pollster Public Opinion Strategies and which in turn lists Governor LePage as a client is conducting a survey in Maine. According to someone who received a call last night, the interviewer asked a series of positive message testing questions about LePage and asked about a wide range of potential negative messages targeting Michaud. They also asked about Mainers’ support for raising the minimum wage, banning bear baiting and legalizing marijuana.

If the poll is from the LePage campaign it will be listed in the next expenditure report and would be their first spending on opinion research, despite questionable claims by campaign advisor Brent Littlefield that they already have internal polls showing them ahead.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike writes about Maine politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center, writes a political column for the Portland Press Herald