Monday January 28, 2013 | 07:49 AM

Right before your eyes: Last week's news that Eliot Cutler is prepping his 2014 gubernatorial bid has prompted some interesting, if not predictable, reaction among those who want the independent to run and those who fear he'll guarantee that Republican Gov. Paul LePage is elected to a second term.

One need only look at comments on Cutler's Facebook page to see the division. Many of the commenters are supportive of his candidacy. Others asked him to enroll as a Democrat, while others criticize him for playing the spoiler.

Cutler addressed the latter sentiment in an interview with Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz. Cutler believes that the anti-LePage sentiment will be so strong in 2014, that voters will unite behind one challenger candidate, either him or the Democratic nominee. 

If that's true, they'll have to unite soon, particularly if the Democratic party cranks up its early-voting drive -- the same machine that Cutler partially blamed for his narrow defeat in 2010. 

Poll analysis: Those hankering for more insight into the Public Policy Poll that released last week would do well to listen Mike Tipping break it down with Ethan Strimling on WGAN 560. 

Much is made of LePage's ceiling of support -- the so-called 39 percent -- but Tipping argues that the poll shows Cutler has a low ceiling as well. 

"Some people just don't trust Cutler," Tipping said on WGAN. "It's not an independent thing because obviously Angus King does very well among those same (Democratic-leaning) voters."

Critics will likely argue that Tipping's analysis is colored because the organization he works for, the Maine Peoples Alliance, has been active in its support of progressive Democrats. Tipping also works for the Maine Peoples Resource Center, a polling organization that has a pretty good track record.  

When it's convenient: Tip of the hat to colleague Randy Billings who took a data-driven look at staffing and overtime at the Portland Fire Department and compared it to similar sized New England communities. Billings is taking some heat in the comments section, but apparently the executive director of Maine People Before Politics, Gov. Paul LePage's political organization, enjoyed the story.

That's because the story raises questions about whether there's fat to trim at the municipal level, thus justifying the governor's plan to suspend municipal aid for two years. 

Completely non-political item: There were 15 food trucks in Boston in 2011, the same year the city began allowing the trendy eateries. In 2013 there will be 56, according to the Boston Globe

Portland last year adopted regulations that will allow food trucks on the peninsula. Some have complained that the rules are too restrictive and are designed to protect the city's restaurant scene. 

Boston restaurant owners have similar concerns, but as the Globe reports, some have joined the movement rather than resist it.

From the toy department: Maisto, maker of Die Cast toy cars, trucks and airplanes, is now selling the model sized RQ-1 Predator drone, the U.S. military's weapon of choice in the war on terror (h/t N.Y. Magazine). 

Drone strikes are obviously a controversial issue, which is why the Amazon reviews of this toy are thoroughly snarky. A sampling:

* "My son is very interested in joining the Imperial forces when he grows up. He says he's not sure if he wants to help police the homeland or if he wants to invade foreign countries. So I thought a new Predator drone toy would be a nice gift for him." 

* "Since so many toy guns are politically incorrect, this makes a great replacement. Long distance killing takes the stress out of play time."

* "This toy is a great companion to my son's Waco and Ruby Ridge and "Cattle Rustlin'" play sets! With the Predator he can now practice modern outcomes for these scenarios!"

Outlook: The Legislature's budget -writing committee will be busy again this week. On Monday, the committee will hold a public hearing on the governor's supplemental budget proposal to cap General Assistance and eliminate the state's drugs for the elderly program. 

The end of the week will likely see plenty of build-up about LePage's State of the State address, which is scheduled for Feb. 5. 




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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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