PORTLAND, Maine — Democratic candidates are vulnerable — even in blue states like Maine — and GOP candidates are gaining momentum with Election Day less than two weeks away, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Friday.
Steele attended a fundraiser in Portland a day after a new poll showed Republican Dean Scontras gaining ground in his race for Congress and the GOP’s Paul LePage maintaining his lead in the governor’s race.
“A lot of the old mindset is: This is New England, this is the Northeast, this is a blue area,” Steele said. “I don’t know what that means anymore, particularly when people are losing jobs and businesses are closing and homes are being foreclosed upon.”
After a fundraiser for the Maine Republican Party coordinated campaign, party officials and GOP legislative leaders said they’re encouraged by indicators that show Republicans gaining traction, in Maine and elsewhere.
In a tracking poll released Thursday by Portland market research firm Critical Insights, 32 percent of those surveyed supported LePage, 20 percent favored Democrat Libby Mitchell and 19 percent were for independent Eliot Cutler in the gubernatorial race. The phone survey of 600 likely voters was conducted Oct. 13-17. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The poll also showed 40 percent of respondents favoring Scontras and 45 percent for Democratic incumbent Chellie Pingree. In the 2nd Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Mike Michaud maintained a 19 percentage-point lead over Republican candidate Jason Levesque. Those parts of the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points because of smaller samplings.
Arden Manning, manager of the Democrats’ coordinated campaign, said he’s predicting a victory for Pingree and a neck-and-neck race between Mitchell and LePage on Nov. 2. As the campaign enters the final stretch, the energy level among the Democratic base is picking up, Manning said.
“We’ve seen an enormous uptick in volunteer activity,” he said.
On the state level, Steele said Republicans are on the cusp of taking majority control of the state Senate. Democrats now have 20 of the Senate’s 35 seats, and the GOP has held a Senate majority for only one two-year period since the 1982 elections.
Rep. Josh Tardy, the Republican leader in the House, said it’s promising when the national Republican Party takes notice of Maine.
“When the Republican National Committee comes to town, it means we’re in play,” Tardy said. “We have very competitive races.”