The first poll gauging Maine’s race for governor since Tuesday’s primaries shows Republican Paul LePage leading Democrat Libby Mitchell, with independent Eliot Cutler a distant third.

The Rasmussen Reports poll shows LePage supported by 43 percent, Mitchell getting 36 percent and Cutler backed by 7 percent of the 500 likely Maine voters who were surveyed. Fourteen percent were undecided. The margin of error was 5 percentage points.

Two other unenrolled candidates, Scott Moody and Kevin Scott, were not included in the poll.

“It’s very early in the race, but these numbers are encouraging,” said Brent Littlefield, LePage’s campaign strategy consultant. “The Maine people have embraced Paul LePage’s remarkable life story and his proven record of fixing broken government as mayor of Waterville.”

Mitchell’s campaign noted that it is more than four months until the election, and said the poll was simply a snapshot of sentiment.

“It might be a little early to be polling the race,” said Jeremy Kennedy, Mitchell’s campaign manager. “We came out of the primary with a 12-point lead over our nearest competitor.”

Cutler’s spokesman, Ted O’Meara, said the finding that only 14 percent of likely voters are undecided is suspicious. He also questioned the objectivity of the Rasmussen polling firm.

“Nationally, they’re not taken seriously,” O’Meara said. “Some would call them the Fox News of polling services.”

Amy Fried, a political science professor at the University of Maine, agreed that Rasmussen is known to lean toward Republican candidates. “It’s pretty consistent,” she said.

The poll relied on automated calls made Thursday to 500 land-line telephones of likely voters that the firm selected by an undisclosed method.

“Most pollsters do not begin to screen likely voters until much, much later (in a campaign),” Fried said, noting that polls before Tuesday’s primaries were inaccurate because they poorly predicted likely voters. “It’s just always difficult to point out who is actually going to vote.”

Weekday calls typically are made from 5 to 9 p.m., according to Rasmussen. Fried said polls done on land lines during early evening hours would reach an older base of voters. “Young people tend to be out more,” she said.

The poll also indicated that 46 percent of the voters surveyed didn’t know enough about Cutler to voice an opinion about him.

Still, “I think it’s very, very bad news for Cutler,” said Chris Potholm, a pollster and government professor at Bowdoin College.

Potholm said it was a mistake not to include Moody and Scott in the poll.

He said Maine’s two unenrolled governors, Jim Longley and Angus King, won by capturing the small-town business community, which typically leans Republican, and Franco-Americans, who typically have leaned Democratic.

“LePage has a lock on both those votes,” he said.

Potholm said that LePage probably got a “false bump” in popularity after his overwhelming victory in the primary, and that the race is far from over.

“He’s going to be a strong candidate, and (Mitchell) is going to be a strong candidate,” Potholm said. “Whoever runs the best campaign is going to win.”

 

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Ethan Wilensky-Lanford can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

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