Poll shows LePage holding lead in governor's race

Posted Aug. 16, 2010, at 12:58 p.m.
In this Friday, Aug. 13, 2010 photo, independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler campaigns with his wife, Melanie Cutler, at the Topsham Fair in Topsham, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
In this Friday, Aug. 13, 2010 photo, independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler campaigns with his wife, Melanie Cutler, at the Topsham Fair in Topsham, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

AUGUSTA, Maine — The results of a poll released Monday suggest Republican Paul LePage continues to lead his rivals in the race for the Blaine House but that a sizable percentage of Maine’s electorate remains undecided.

The Rasmussen Reports’ latest survey showed little change in the Maine governor’s race since the firm’s last poll, taken a month ago.

LePage, who surprised many with his commanding victory in a seven-way GOP primary in June, was the choice for 38 percent of participants in the Rasmussen survey of 500 likely voters. That is down 1 percent from July.

Democrat Libby Mitchell continued to poll in second place at 30 percent, also down 1 percent from last month. Independent Eliot Cutler, meanwhile, climbed a percentage point and now stands at 16 percent support in the Rasmussen surveys.

The ranks of the undecided fell by a point to 11 percent while 4 percent of respondents preferred another candidate. Two other independents — Shawn Moody of Gorham and Kevin Scott of Andover — are also on the November ballot.

With Labor Day and the official start of the campaign season still several weeks away, the campaigns called attention to the findings that reflected favorably on their respective candidates while universally cautioning against putting too much stock in early polls.

“Obviously, we are pleased with the results but we have more work to do,” said John Morris, spokesman for LePage’s campaign. “It’s a simple snapshot in time, but it does show to me that the negative attacks coming out daily against Paul are not resonating.”

The LePage campaign counted among those “attacks” an online advertisement released Monday by the Maine Democratic Party. The ad targets LePage for remaining relatively low-profile since the June 8 primary with the exception of a “whistle stop” train ride that sparked several controversies.

The Democrats’ ad shows a hand knocking on a closed wooden door with a LePage sign and features a voice asking, “Paul, can you come out now? Paul, reporters are calling. Are you going to go to any debates?”

LePage did not attend the first gubernatorial debate of the general election — held last Friday in Rockland — and is not slated to appear at two more in the coming week. But Morris said LePage already has committed to at least 20 debates beginning in early September.

David Loughran, spokesman for Mitchell, said he interpreted the poll to show that none of the three independent candidates had generated much momentum over the past month. Two of those candidates — Cutler and Moody — have been airing television ads.

“I think the poll shows it is still a two-person race between Libby and Paul LePage,” Loughran said. “And there is still a significant number of undecided voters.”

To date, Cutler’s campaign has worked hard to portray its candidate as the moderate choice between two extreme candidates from the major parties. Campaign manager Ted O’Meara said he was pleased that 39 percent of poll respondents put Cutler in the “moderate” camp, a higher percentage than either LePage or Mitchell.

“The trend lines are still good,” O’Meara said. “The other two are going down, and Eliot is still going up.” That said, O’Meara said he doesn’t believe anyone in the campaign expects to see many changes in poll numbers before Labor Day.

Other results from the poll include:

ä 47 percent of respondents viewed LePage’s political views as “mainstream,” compared to 51 percent for Mitchell and 39 percent for Cutler.

ä 54 percent approved of President Barack Obama’s job performance, which is slightly higher than the national average.

ä 50 percent said they believed their finances were getting worse, compared to only 21 percent who believed they were improving.

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