We are going to know everything about the race for Maine governor in just a couple of days.

Right now, all we’ve got is polls.

And the few public polls I’ve seen show Democrat Janet Mills pulling ahead, Republican Shawn Moody sliding back and independent Terry Hayes struggling to gain traction. Alan Caron, the other independent in the race, bowed out on Monday, endorsing Mills, after determining (based on polls) that he had no path to victory.

The candidates seem to be getting the same information in their private polls. In the last couple of debates, Mills has looked more confident; and forceful than at any time since she announced her candidacy, and Moody looks a little less at ease than he did while he was mopping up the field in the Republican primary.

But if all we know is from the polls than we really don’t know anything. Anybody who lived through Election Night 2016, knows that.

I’ve learned a couple of things since then. One of them is that polls are like are like Q-tips.

Vox Media’s Ezra Klein points out that Q-tips come in a box that clearly tells you not to stick one in your ear. But imagine what would happen to the cotton swab industry if people started following the instructions. No matter how clearly you deliver the information, people like to use them the wrong way.

Similarly, pollsters tell us not to use their data to make predictions. Then they repeat it. Then they say it again.

We nod wisely and shove their numbers in our ear canal. We know it’s not good, but it feels good.

The other thing I’ve learned is that polls are like raw meat.

You can go to a butcher shop and see a beautiful marbled steak behind the glass (stay with me vegans!). Your mouth might water as you drive home, as you imagine how good it’s going to be. You might even think you can taste it. But that steak wrapped in paper is not dinner. And that poll is not an election result.

Polls can only tell you where public opinion is right now, and they can track how it changes over time. And some recent national polls might surprise you.

Lets go back to Election Night 2016, when seven-to-one shot Donald Trump crossed the electoral college finish line to become the most powerful person on the planet.

Since then, we’ve had The Women’s Marches, the #Metoo movement, attempted Obamacare repeal, an unpopular tax cut, the Parkland school massacre and two new Supreme Court justices who hate government regulation — unless you’re thinking about regulating abortion.

Cabinet secretaries Tom Price (Department of Health and Human Services), Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Administration) and David Shulkin (Veterans Affairs) have all been forced to resign while facing allegations of corruption. And a fourth, Ryan Zinke at the Department of the Interior, is teetering on the edge

Investigative journalists have established that the Trump family fortune was built on tax avoidance. White supremacists and neo Nazis are emboldened by a president who won’t denounce them and the intelligence services say that Russian agents interfered with our election intending to help Trump win.

After all that, what’s changed? According to the polls, not a whole lot.

A recent piece in the Cook Political Report by Amy Walter put it into sharp focus. If you compare analysis of 2016 exit polling with an October survey by NBC/Wall Street Journal, there is no sign that anything has had any effect on public opinion.

Then and now, gender, age, race and level of education still have much more to say about how you feel about the president than any revelation in the news, and how you feel about Trump will say a lot about how you vote on Tuesday.

So what can we learn about the Maine governor’s race from the national polls?

Trump remains seriously unpopular with women (only 38 percent favorable), which should be good for Janet Mills and the other Democrats on the ticket with her. But the president remains popular with men (56 percent favorable), white people (54 percent) and white people without a college degree (65 percent), which means he is probably popular with a lot of Maine voters. That should be good for Shawn Moody.

After the election, when we know who won, we’ll argue about what made the difference. Whoever wins will be said to have run a flawless campaign, and whoever loses will be said to have been ill-served by staff.

But right now, we only know what the polls tell us. In other words, we don’t know much.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor of the Portland Press Herald. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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