Eliot Cutler has written a book, but will people be afraid to read it?

I did. It’s an editorial writer’s dream. It is crammed full of facts (“our ratio of per capita debt to GDP is the lowest in New England’) and near facts (“some have suggested that our farmers are among the youngest in the country”), strung together by the candidate’s analysis of what went wrong in the last decade and what direction Maine should move to correct it.

Eliot Cutler’s Maine, as outlined in “A State of Opportunity,” would have more farms, more young people, more immigrants and less money in politics. It would be a place where political factions are less important than moving the state forward, and people from all sides would come together a develop a strategic plan that everyone can get behind.

But most people aren’t editorial writers, and at least for a sizable sector of Maine voters, Cutler’s book won’t answer their biggest question: Are we going to be stuck with another four years of Paul LePage? Because if that is where reading this book will lead, they don’t want any part of it.

Here’s the nightmare scenario: On Election Day 2014, LePage holds on to the slightly better than one-third of the vote he won the Blaine House with in 2010 and has registered in virtually ever public poll conducted since. Democrat Mike Michaud, a popular congressman with a strong base in the more conservative 2nd District, does better than the 19 percent state Sen. Libby Mitchell got three years ago. And Cutler peels off just enough support from political reformers and moderate independents to send the governor back in office for four more years.

That vision makes it hard for people to even look at Cutler’s book, let alone read it.

But Cutler says they have no reason to be afraid.

“There are two pieces of conventional wisdom out there that are wrong,” he said in a visit this week with the Portland Press Herald’s editorial board.

“One is that Paul will hold on to all the votes he got in 2010. The other is that Mike is a stronger candidate than Libby.” Cutler doesn’t buy either one.

Cutler says he anticipates that LePage’s support will erode, and he thinks 2010 LePage voters will vote for him because they believe their candidate can’t win. Cutler was the beneficiary of that kind of erosion in the last election, when Democrats surged to his side in the last weeks of the campaign because they saw him as the best hope to avoid what we’ve been living through for the last 2½ years.

Cutler crushed both LePage and Mitchell in Greater Portland, which should be a gimme for a Democrat, and that was almost enough to make him governor. Cutler believes he can reach those voters again because they will buy in to his vision for the state. So far, the polls have not been supportive.

Last August, Public Policy Polling, the only independent poll so far, found Michaud leading the race at 39 percent, LePage in second with 35 percent and Cutler trailing with 18 percent. In a head-to-head race, Michaud would win, 54 percent to 39 percent. Those numbers are consistent with partisan polls that have been released.

Cutler said that those numbers don’t match polling done by his campaign and it’s absurdly early to be looking at polls as anything other than a snapshot of what things look like at the start of the race. But he did not dismiss all of the results.

While Public Policy Polling found that 95 percent of Mainers polled had an opinion about Gov. LePage, either positive or negative (mostly negative), and 83 percent had an opinion about Michaud, when it got to Cutler, 33 percent of people said they were unsure, despite his close finish last time. He sees that as an opportunity for growth, and thinks he has more than enough time to introduce himself to them.

He does, but a book is probably not going to do it.

At this early stage at least, this election is a referendum on Paul LePage. For many voters, differences between the candidates on policy are not as important as their relative likelihood of knocking off a sitting governor — something that hasn’t been done in Maine since 1966.

Cutler can call that conventional wisdom, but that’s the hurdle he has to clear if many voters will get over their fears and dig in past the cover of his book.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or:[email protected]