Maine’s two Democratic incumbents could be in for tougher campaigns than in years past as they seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a poll released this week.
In a year when Republicans are expected to pick up seats on Capitol Hill, the GOP challengers to U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree are within single digits of the longtime lawmakers with about seven weeks before Election Day, according to the North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling.
In the 2nd Congressional District, Michaud led Republican challenger Jason Levesque of Auburn 45 percent to 38 percent in the survey released Thursday. Pingree looks more secure, according to the poll, holding a nine-point lead — 47 percent to 38 percent — over Dean Scontras, a Kittery businessman taking his second run at the 1st Congressional District seat.
Public Policy Polling president Dean Debnam said, given that Michaud historically has won his district by as much as 41 percentage points, the poll shows that the East Millinocket Democrat is vastly underperforming in the more Republican of the state’s two districts.
“If he was a first-term incumbent, I think he would be on his way out the door,” Debnam said of Michaud. “That’s generally the race when you are weakest. As a four-term incumbent, I give him better odds than that.”
Ed Gilman, Michaud’s campaign manager, said that while it hardly paints a rosy picture of Levesque, the poll shows why Michaud plans to start airing his first television campaign ads in four years.
“We have said all along that we are taking this race seriously. These numbers reflect that we should be,” Gilman said. “With that in mind, the only poll that matters is the one we are looking to, on Election Day.”
Levesque was generally pleased with the poll results, which he said show that his anti-big-government, deficit-cutting message is finding an audience.
“It is really a nice validation of what I and my supporters have been seeing,” Levesque said. “The fact is that our economy is in trouble. The current leadership in Washington — mainly Michaud — isn’t getting the job done. We need a leadership that works on behalf of Mainers, that listens. That is the message.”
“It is a classic anti-incumbent year. That is in his favor,” Debnam said of Levesque, “but if he was going to be a huge challenge, he should be a little higher than he is now.”
Public Policy Polling surveyed 790 likely 1st District voters, for a margin of error of 3.5 percent, and 678 likely 2nd District voters, for a margin of error of 3.8 percent, from Sept. 2 to 6.
The poll was released a day before former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was in Portland campaigning for Scontras, and likening Pingree to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Giuliani at the Friday event called the first-term congresswoman a “complete alter ego” of Pelosi who votes with her most of the time. He said a vote for Pingree “is a vote for Nancy Pelosi.”
Scontras met Giuliani last month in New York. On Thursday, Giuliani joined Scontras for a fundraiser at a country club in Falmouth.
Lisa Prosienski, Pingree’s campaign manager, said the campaign is not about Pelosi. She says the election “is about the Maine people and the Maine values that [Pingree] represents.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.