If you’re a Maine Democrat, the recently released poll of the gubernatorial race has probably given you a bad case of déja vu.

Yet again, what appears to be a very winnable race may be affected by independent candidates whose voters should be going toward your camp. To be sure, neither Terry Hayes nor Alan Caron appear to be a threat to win the race as Eliot Cutler was, but at this point in 2010 polls had him a distant third. Together, the two independent candidates are garnering less than 7 percent right now – but that’s more than enough to affect the race when a poll shows it’s almost tied.

Now, you could be heartened by that tie if you’re a Democrat. Eight years ago, the one poll released in August gave Paul LePage a comfortable (if hardly insurmountable) lead over Libby Mitchell, so a tie is certainly an improvement. It may not be much of one, though. 2010 was, after all, a big year for Republicans, as they swept to historic victories across the country at all levels. If the majority of analysts and prognosticators are right, 2018 will indeed be a good year for Democrats, meaning that in a swing state like Maine you should be doing way better than a tie right now.

There are a couple possible explanations for this: 2018 won’t be that great a year for Democrats nationally, it won’t be in Maine, or the one poll we’ve seen is wrong.

Democrats have been doing well nationally so far in special elections. That’s not a sure sign of a coming wave election by any means, but certainly you’d always rather over-perform in those races than under-perform. Though Trump’s approval ratings remain low, he’s retaining the support of his base and the economy is doing well, so that may be less damaging for GOP prospects as a whole than one might imagine.

There may be reason to believe that even if a Democratic wave is coming, it won’t be crashing down on Maine’s shores. The one poll we’ve heard of in the 2nd Congressional District was a thinly sourced internal poll, rather than a fully released public one, so it should be taken with a Katahdin-sized amount of salt – but it showed a very close race between Poliquin and Democrat Jared Golden. Again, if you’re a Maine Democrat, that story may be sounding slightly familiar: In both 2014 and 2016, leaked internal polls portrayed the race as close between Poliquin and Emily Cain, and each time he ended up coasting to victory. Coming up with a poll that shows the same thing as previous years shouldn’t be all that impressive if a national wave really is coming – indeed, it should be more a cause for concern than celebration amongst Democrats.


Now, it could well be that the Suffolk University poll is somehow flawed, and there are reasons that may be the case. As is not uncommon in public polls done by out-of-state firms in Maine, the southern part of the state appears to be over-represented: 225 of the poll’s 500 respondents come from the “southern/coastal” region, while the rest is split up between the midcoast, the “east,” and the “north.” They don’t break it apart by typical Maine regions like “Down East” or “western Maine,” but it’s never good news for a Democrat when they’re not leading in a poll that over-represents southern Maine. It’s the only region identified in the poll where Janet Mills has a solid lead over Shawn Moody, and it’s not nearly large enough to counteract his strength elsewhere.

One could argue that, since western Maine isn’t broken out as a separate region, it may be underrepresented as well, which could hurt Mills’ showing in the poll. However, that’s likely mitigated by the over-representation of Democrats – more of them were polled than independents. Furthermore, any under-representation of western Maine may also hurt Terry Hayes in the poll just as much as Mills, since that’s also where she’s most well-known.

Regardless of whether Maine is an aberration or a bellwether as far as the national elections, the polls we’ve seen can’t please Maine Democrats. So far they’ve shown no indication of a big wave in the Pine Tree State and that Democrats haven’t been able to reverse their fortunes from recent years. In what may be a rough year for the GOP, this should leave Maine Republicans at least cautiously optimistic, if not exactly jumping for joy.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @jimfossel

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