U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud will begin airing TV ads Tuesday — two weeks earlier than previously indicated by records from Maine television stations. At least one political observer said the move could indicate a tough race.

Campaign spokesman Dan Cashman said the spot will air in all three of Maine’s TV markets — Bangor, Portland and Presque Isle — and will focus on the five-term incumbent’s successes in Maine’s 2nd District.

“We have said from the beginning we’re going to keep it positive — focus on Mike’s record, which we’re proud of — stuff like support for veterans, small business and manufacturing,” Cashman said Monday.

A week ago, Kevin Raye — the Republican challenger — began airing an ad on stations in all three TV markets. Raye’s 30-second spot focuses on his accomplishments in the Maine Senate, his work for Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and experiences as owner of a small business in Eastport. It is available on the campaign’s YouTube channel, rayeforcongress.

The ad ends with Raye on camera, saying, “Washington’s broken. We need somebody to work to solve problems. That’s what I’ve done in Augusta. That’s what I’ll do in Washington.”

According to records obtained from Maine TV stations last week, Michaud’s ads were not scheduled to run until Oct. 1. Cashman said Tuesday’s debut has been part of the campaign’s strategy all along.

“We had a plan and we’re sticking to it,” he said. “This is a common practice in terms of ad buying.”

Raye’s campaign consultant Kathie Summers-Grice said Michaud’s move indicates that Raye’s televised message as a small-business owner is resonating with voters.

Mark Brewer, associate professor of political science at the University of Maine, said there are several possible reasons for the earlier-than-anticipated debut, “but the most plausible reason is they see something out there — whether it’s internal polling or a general feeling they’re getting at campaign events. My number one guess is something has come across their radar that has raised their concern a little bit.”

The race could be the closest one since Michaud and Raye last faced off, in 2002, Brewer said.

“There’s no doubt this is going to be a tough race, but the incumbent still has the advantage,” he said. “I still think this is Michaud’s race to lose.”

An updated list of TV airtime purchases wasn’t available Monday, but as of last week Michaud was on track to outspend Raye sevenfold.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Ben McCanna can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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