Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud still enjoys a comfortable lead over Republican challenger Jason Levesque, but the gap is narrowing in the 2nd Congressional District race, according to The Maine Poll.
Michaud had 44 percent of likely voters surveyed, compared with 32 percent for Levesque in the poll conducted early last week for MaineToday Media by the Portland research firm Critical Insights.
In the previous Maine Poll on Sept. 19, Michaud had 48 percent to Levesque’s 28 percent. In both surveys, 24 percent of respondents were undecided. Michaud, 55, a former millworker from East Millinocket, is seeking his fifth two-year term.
Levesque, 36, an Auburn businessman who owns the Argo Marketing Group, said Thursday that the latest poll shows his message is resonating with voters and that Michaud, polling at less than 50 percent, is in trouble — Michaud won re-election in 2008 with 67 percent of the vote.
“The folks who are undecided have clearly fired Mike Michaud and are hiring me,” Levesque said. “My job in the next four weeks is to tell people what I plan on doing in Washington and contrast myself with the current incumbent.”
Greg Olson, Michaud’s campaign manager, said the campaign’s internal polling “shows drastically different numbers” compared with the latest Maine Poll.
“It shows us with a larger lead,” Olson said Thursday. “But we are taking nothing for granted. We started (advertising) on television two days ago and go district-wide next week.”
Another survey, released Sept. 9 by Public Policy Polling, had the narrowest margin yet, with Michaud leading by only 7 points, 45-38.
The Maine Poll, with a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level, was conducted Monday and surveyed 218 likely voters in the 2nd Congressional District.
With about a month to go until the election, the new poll indicates that many voters are firming up their choices. Respondents saying they would “definitely” vote for either candidate increased, from 74 percent to 86 percent for Levesque, and from 67 percent to 80 percent for Michaud. Among voters who still aren’t sure but are leaning toward a candidate, Michaud had 19 percent and Levesque had 14 percent.
Fifty-three percent of women preferred Michaud; 18 percent Levesque; and 28 percent weren’t sure. Among men, 34 percent preferred Michaud; 46 percent Levesque; and 18 percent weren’t sure.
The poll also shows Michaud attracting more support from unenrolled voters, 52 percent to 25 percent, over Levesque.
The poll also suggests Michaud has stronger support from Democrats than Levesque has from Republicans. Of respondents supporting Michaud, 75 percent are Democrats and 14 percent are Republicans. Among Levesque supporters, 55 percent are Republicans and 9 percent are Democrats.
Among undecided respondents, 31 percent are Republicans and 16 percent are Democrats.
At a Sept. 25 forum in Bangor hosted by the Maine Association of Broadcasters, Michaud portrayed himself as an answer to Washington gridlock and fighter for his constituents, according to a Bangor Daily News story. Levesque, by contrast, said he would do a better job of listening to Mainers and would staunchly oppose President Obama’s major policy initiatives, the story said.
A live debate between Michaud and Levesque is scheduled for Oct. 14 on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.
Michaud’s first TV ad, which debuted in the Bangor area Tuesday, features military veterans speaking about Michaud’s pushes for new medical access points for veterans in Bangor, Houlton, Lewiston and Lincoln. Michaud is chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health.
Levesque said, “The fact that this is the first time he (Michaud) has been on TV in over four years indicates he recognizes he is in trouble.”
Levesque said he also found it interesting that Michaud “is not boasting about his voting record over the past two years” in the TV ads. Levesque said he plans to begin running his own ads “very soon.”
With Congress breaking for recess this week, Olson said Michaud is “eager to get back to Maine and tell voters that he is an effective congressman who has Maine’s priorities at heart.”
“Maine has a lot of priorities not on the agenda of either of the national party,” Olson said.