Ethan: Did you see that recent poll by Survey USA, an “A-Rated” pollster by 538.com, showing that 75 percent of Maine people support kicking CMP to the curb and creating a consumer-owned utility? Here’s hoping the Legislature takes notice and follows the lead of the Utilities Committee which voted 9-2 in support this week.
Phil: The minute the Legislature starts legislating based on polls is the minute they need to close up shop.
Ethan: Yeah, God forbid elected officials listen to what their constituents want.
Phil: When I first saw that the poll was commissioned by Our Power, the side pushing for the COU, I was obviously skeptical, but then I saw the poll also showed Gov. Janet Mills at 45 percent against former Gov. Paul LePage, and that seemed about right.
Ethan: Agreed. And in full disclosure, my partner is running the campaign for Our Power. But yes, Mills is at 45 percent, with LePage at 38 percent. If the best Republicans have to offer leaves you seven points behind, I’m feeling pretty good.
Phil: If an incumbent governor is below 50 percent with 18 months to go until election day, I wouldn’t be feeling giddy. Especially one who won with 51 percent in a three-way race.
Ethan: I’ll give it to you that being under 50 percent a year and half out is not ideal, but she’s beating a former two-term governor with almost universal name ID who has 80-plus percent support among your party faithful. Her team has to be feeling pretty good about their chances.
Phil: I have been hearing for a few weeks that LePage is about to register as a candidate. Do you think numbers like these make him hesitate or see an opening?
Ethan: I expect they tell him two stories. First, he hasn’t lost an ounce of support from the first time he won with 38 percent. His base is strong and deep. That’s the good news. The bad news is he won with 49 percent in his second race, so his numbers are down double digits.
Phil: As I recall, that winning 49 percent you mention came after almost every early poll (and many late) had him losing against then-U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. I think these numbers tell him his political future is there for the taking.
Ethan: “There for the taking” may be a little strong. Remember, never in Maine’s history has a governor been elected to a third four-year term. So LePage will be running against some serious history.
Phil: Based on his life story of being homeless at 11 to becoming general manager of Marden’s to becoming governor of Maine, fighting hard against all odds is his wheelhouse.
Ethan: Based on Mills’ life story, from being in a body cast as a teenager for scoliosis to becoming the first female criminal prosecutor in Maine to the first woman attorney general, and now to the first female governor of Maine, fighting hard against the odds is her wheelhouse too.
Phil: Remember, the man has never lost an election. And he was far from the frontrunner when he decided to run for the Republican nomination in 2010.
Ethan: Your finest prognostication, in all our years prognosticating together, was your predicting early that LePage would win that primary.
Phil: Well, I also predicted Pat McGowen would win the Democratic primary that year, while you nailed it for Libby Mitchell. Probably just shows we should stick with what we each know best.
Ethan: True. While I am not yet ready to make a prediction on who will win this one, I do anticipate that should LePage run, it will be a knock-down drag-out like we have not seen in a long time in races for governor in Maine. Neither of these two will pull punches.
Phil: Agreed. The ideological lines will also be clear. Do you want a bigger government that taxes you at higher rates? Or a smaller government that lets all of us invest our money as we see fit?
Ethan: More like, do you want a state that takes care of its own or one that says every man, woman and child for themselves.
Phil: Whichever version, there will be lots for us to talk about.
Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.