Are women voters abandoning Republican gubernatorial nominee Paul LePage? A quick look comparing a pair of polls on Maine’s gubernatorial race suggests that could be the case.

After holding a double-digit lead over his four opponents on the November ballot for nearly the entire race, the latest poll conducted by Critical Insights and sponsored by MaineToday Media showed Democrat Libby Mitchell at 30 percent, LePage at 29 percent and all three independent candidates at less than 10 percent each.

In the poll taken two weeks earlier, LePage led with 38 percent to Mitchell’s 25 percent.

In the first Critical Insights poll, 28 percent of women respondents said they supported LePage. But in the second poll, only 19 percent of women said they did.

Support for Mitchell among women swelled from 28 percent in the first poll to 36 percent in the second. The ranks for undecided women also grew, from 27 percent to 35 percent, between the two polls.

According to a recent column by Charlie Cook in the National Journal, a group of voters labeled “Walmart Moms” is emerging as a swing constituency across the country.

“They think both parties are on another planet, and they view their elected officials as unknowing, uncaring and totally disengaged from the lives of those who elect them,” Cook wrote. “Frugality is not a virtue to these women; it is the only way they survive. A common sentiment is that while the banks were being bailed out, these families were offered nothing; nobody in government was doing anything to help them.”

Those sentiments may have driven them into LePage’s fiscal conservative camp, but his propensity to swear and lose his temper may be driving them back out.

One national political site says LePage’s well-documented outbursts may be turning away independent voters.

“LePage is a tea party candidate and is a more conservative candidate than Maine normally elects, but 2010 may be the exception to many rules around the nation,” wrote Rhodes Cook, a senior columnist on the website Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “It’s too early to ‘lean’ this to LePage, however. He’s an untested candidate given to counterproductive outbursts, most recently in his assertion that, as governor, he’d be in the headlines a lot telling President Obama to ‘go to hell.’ LePage’s base may love that, but independent swing voters do not appreciate intemperateness.”

It should be a very, very interesting October.

LEWISTON MAYOR BACKS CUTLER

Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert, a Democrat, announced Friday he is supporting independent Eliot Cutler for governor.

“Eliot Cutler is the only candidate who can get the job done for Maine,” Gilbert said in a written statement. “He understands the challenges we face and has a clear, detailed strategy to make Maine work again.”

Others announcing their support for Cutler included Jack Clifford, founder and partner in the Clifford and Golden law firm; Lucien Gosselin, president of the Lewiston/Auburn Economic Growth Council; Jonathan LaBonte, Androscoggin County commissioner; Kathie Leonard, president of Auburn Manufacturing; and Jim Wellehan, founder and president, Lamey Wellehan. 

LePAGE NAMES PRESS SECRETARY

LePage sent notice Friday that he has hired Dan Demeritt as his new campaign press secretary.

Those who have been around the State House for a while will remember Demeritt as the communications director in the House Republican Office for the 2003-04 legislative session. He also served as political director for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ successful 1996 campaign.

He now owns a few pizza shops in the Augusta area.

“Dan shares Paul’s vision of job creation, and we are excited to have him on board,” Chief of Staff John Morris said in a written statement. 

FIVE SUPPORT OPEN GOVERNMENT

All five gubernatorial candidates with their name on the ballot have signed a pledge to support open government and public access to government records, according to a news release from the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition.

“A pledge of support for open government is a pledge of support for Maine people,” said Judy Meyer, vice president of the coalition and daytime managing editor of the Lewiston Sun Journal.

The coalition is comprised of media organizations, lawyers, academics and public policy groups, according to the release. 

CONSERVATIONISTS BACK MITCHELL

Mitchell recently received the endorsement of the Maine League of Conservation Voters.

“We are very pleased to give her our unanimous endorsement,” Caroline Pryor, president of the league’s board of directors, said in a news release. “(Mitchell) has emerged as the clear choice because of her record, her experience as a leader and her commitment and vision to protecting Maine’s environment.”

Protecting Maine’s environment is a top priority of voters. A 2009 poll by Critical Insights showed 87 percent of respondents find it important that lawmakers protect the environment, according to the league’s release. 

‘PARTY’S OVER PARTY’ FRIDAY

If you caught the televised debate two Saturdays ago, you’ll recall one of the most memorable lines came from independent Shawn Moody.

“We’ve heard from the Democratic Party, Republican Party, Green Party and the tea party, but guess what? The party’s over,” he said.

Picking up on that theme, Moody is hosting a fundraiser Friday in Scarborough called “The Party’s Over Party and Fundraiser.” It will feature singer-songwriter Jonathan Edwards. Tickets cost $50.

“We’ll keep the politicking to a minimum and just have a fun night,” Moody promised in a news release. 

WMTW TO HOST DEBATE

News 8 WMTW announced it will host a live gubernatorial debate from 7 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 18. The debate, hosted by Shannon Moss, will be held at the University of Southern Maine.

Voters are invited to submit questions for the candidates at wmtw.com and also participate in a live web chat as the debate takes place, according to a news release.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

rmetzler@mainetoday.com

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

scover@centralmaine.com