Two years ago, Maine’s 2nd District U.S. House race was among the costliest and most closely fought in the country.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, left, and Republican challenger Dale Crafts.

This time, with polls showing a solid Democratic lead, it is shaping up to be far less heated.

There is less money pouring into the race, at least on the Republican side, and advertising is not as pervasive as it was two years ago.

At least 20 congressional contests around the country are attracting more spending and more ads than the Maine district, key indicators of whether political professionals see a close race.

Between Labor Day and Oct. 1 this year, a critical period for any campaign, television advertising favoring first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden aired five times as often as anything helpful to Republican challenger Dale Crafts of Lisbon, according to records kept by the Wesleyan Media Project.

In that time span, advertisers spent $888,000 on the race to put on 3,418 television commercials touting or trashing one of the two candidates in Maine. Of those, 591 were in support of Crafts and 2,827 in support of Golden.

That sounds like a lot of money, but it is lagging behind the pace of the vicious 2018 race in which Golden knocked two-term Republican Bruce Poliquin from office in the nation’s first ranked-choice voting race for a federal office. Golden barely won.

Polls show Golden walking away with the contest this time around.

A mid-September poll by The New York Times/Siena College Research Institute showed Golden leading 56% to 37%, with 6% undecided.

A Colby College poll shortly after showed Golden leading 56% to 33%.

Crafts said the race will tighten up.

“I was in the same boat” before July’s three-way Republican primary, he said, where he was outspent and little known, but came from behind to win. This time, too, “the numbers are going to close fast,” Crafts said.

The experts do not think so. All of the major political ratings outfits, from Cook’s Political Report to Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, have shifted Maine’s 2nd District into a likely Democratic win. It began the political season as a tossup.

Part of it may be that voters in the sprawling, rural district are happy with Golden’s performance in office. But it is also true that money matters.

At the end of June, Golden, a Lewiston resident, had $2.2 million in his campaign coffers. Crafts had $34,000, plus he had loaned his campaign $87,000.

Although neither has yet formally disclosed his third-quarter fundraising tallies to the Federal Election Commission, Golden’s campaign said it raised $1.8 million additional between July and October. Crafts has not cited figures yet.

“We know the only numbers that really matter are the results on Election Day,” Golden’s campaign manager, Margaret Reynolds, said in a prepared statement. “But we have reason to be confident heading into October.”

Spending levels in the district in 2018 were perhaps the highest in the country. It is hard to say for sure because tabulating outside group spending is not exact.

At least $24.3 million was spent on the Golden-Poliquin race, up from $18.3 million in the 2016 showdown between Poliquin and Democrat Emily Cain.

This year, the final tally may well wind up lower.

Instead of being one of the most expensive races in September, the district ranked 22 in spending for television advertising, counting the cash spent by Golden, Crafts and outside organizations, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.

Spending on the race ranked even lower for social media advertising in September, the project found.

On the other hand, Maine’s U.S. Senate race remains among the most hotly contested in the nation.


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