October 20, 2010

In independent survey, Paul LePage retains lead for Maine governor

But the race is still tight, and the campaign of rival Libby Mitchell claims that she has the momentum.

By Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA — Yet another poll has been released showing that Maine's race for governor remains tight, with Republican Paul LePage still on top.

LePage received support from about 33 percent of respondents and Democrat Libby Mitchell got about 28 percent in the latest poll, released by Pan Atlantic SMS Group of Portland.

About 14 percent of respondents supported independent candidate Eliot Cutler, about 5 percent backed independent Shawn Moody and less than 1 percent supported independent Kevin Scott.

About 500 likely Maine voters were surveyed by interviewers from Oct. 11 to Oct. 15. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll was not funded by any campaign. The pollster, Democrat Patrick Murphy, has not worked or volunteered for any of the campaigns included in the poll. Murphy's wife, Victoria, is a Pan Atlantic company director and a former president of the Maine Democratic Party.

The new independent poll stands in sharp contrast to an internal poll that the Cutler camp released Monday, showing its candidate with 26 percent support, which was inconsistent with other recent polling.

The most recent Maine Poll conducted by Critical Insights for MaineToday Media showed Cutler with support from about 11 percent of respondents. A poll by Rasmussen Reports, which asked voters about only the top three candidates, showed support for Cutler at about 20 percent.

The Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll indicated that 20 percent of the state's voters are undecided in the gubernatorial race.

Dan Demeritt, spokesman for the LePage campaign, said the campaign was pleased to see support for the Republican among independent voters.

"We continue to be pleased the polls show strong support for Paul and that his people-before-politics message is resonating with voters," Demeritt said. "We're particularly pleased to see the strong support that Paul's leading with independents. I think that's always a key bloc in Maine elections. It's just one poll, but it shows our message is reaching those voters, too."

About 29 percent of independent voters surveyed said they would vote for LePage, compared with about 21 percent supporting Mitchell, 20 percent for Cutler and about 25 percent who remained undecided.

Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for Mitchell, said the most recent poll shows that LePage's early lead in the campaign has evaporated into a toss-up between the two major-party candidates.

"As we get closer to Election Day, it is clear that there is one and only one candidate that can beat Paul LePage, and that is Libby Mitchell," he said. "This race has gone from Paul LePage being up 20 points to a toss-up between Sen. Mitchell and Paul LePage. Clearly, Maine people understand the stark differences between the two candidates, and as voters continue to move away from LePage they are giving Sen. Mitchell's campaign another look."

A spokesman for Cutler said the new poll, which was done earlier than the campaign's internal poll, is "dated."

"This is an election that is moving very quickly, and voters in the last week have started to break and they are breaking Eliot's way," said Ted O'Meara, campaign manager for Cutler.

The poll also shows Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree with support from about 49 percent of respondents in the 1st Congressional District and her Republican challenger, Dean Scontras, with support from about 33 percent. About 18 percent said they were undecided.

In Maine's 2nd Congressional District, the poll had Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud leading Republican Jason Levesque by 49 percent to 30 percent. About 22 percent of respondents in the 2nd District said they were undecided.

The margin of error for the two congressional race polls is plus or minus 6.2 percentage points, because the sample size for each is about 250 voters, roughly half of the statewide poll.

(Continued on page 2)

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