Tuesday November 12, 2013 | 12:56 PM

North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling has released a new poll of the Maine gubernatorial race. The results are essentially the same as the last PPP poll, which had Democratic candidate Mike Michaud with a narrow lead over Republican Gov. Paul LePage and a wider advantage over independent Eliot Cutler. 

Michaud leads LePage 38 percent to 36 percent. Cutler pulled in 15 percent, while 10 percent of respondents were undecided. 

The poll asked about reaction to Michaud's disclosure last week that is gay. Seventy-one percent of Mainers say Michaud's sexuality makes no difference to them, while 12 percent more likely to vote for him, 15 percent less likely.

The poll was released through Politico's Morning Score. Tom Jensen, with PPP, said Tuesday that Politico had asked for a preview of the poll for its Tuesday newsletter and the firm would release its customary analysis later. The preview doesn't include the margin of error. Whatever it is, it's likely Michaud's two-point lead over LePage is within the margin (PPP is usually in the +/- 5 percent range). 

If you're scanning the #mepolitics thread or getting press releases from the campaigns, the reaction to the poll may seem familiar, if not a bit louder.

Michaud's campaign and its blogging allies claim that the results show the six-term congressman is the established front-runner and that his rivals haven't received the customary bump from staged campaign kickoffs. A quick scan of Facebook comments show that some of Michaud's supporters aren't as pleased with the results -- "he's only up by 2% ????!!!"

Brent Littlefield, LePage's political advisor, continued his line of criticism against PPP, arguing that the firm is one of several Democratic outfits in "a great rush ... to show polls that Michael Michaud is viable in order to help his fundraising efforts."

Maybe Littlefield is right about the "great rush," given that the poll appears to have little statistical significance over the previous one -- liberal activist Mike Tipping's discription, not mine -- yet the campaigns are expending significant energy touting or discrediting it (Michaud's campaign used the poll as a hook for a campaign donations, writing in a blast to supporters that the Democrat is "still the only candidate who can beat" LePage but that the governor could "easily close the gap.")

Cutler's campaign highlighted the recent flap involving PPP, which was widely criticized for withholding polling results before the recall election of Colorado Democratic state lawmakers. Littlefield, meanwhile, noted PPP's performance in last Tuesday's Virginia governor's race proved its bias for Democratic candidates. He wrote that PPP had Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe up by seven points the day before McAuliffe won by a little over two points. Here's the thing: Nearly all of the pollsters in the Virginia race stunk and nearly all of them were as bad as PPP; polling averages showed McAuliffe winning by seven points.

So if you take out all the spin, what does the PPP poll really mean? With less than a year before Election Day and a ton of campaigning left, it's a close race and that's not likely to change soon.  

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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.

Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
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