January 31, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Cutler sees no need for spoiler alert

(Continued from page 1)

The man has a point. In the waning days of the 2010 race, Maine voters -- some afraid to waste their vote on the lackluster Democrat Mitchell, others still undecided -- migrated swiftly and almost telepathically to Cutler.

Thus his support, which most polls put in the low teens around Labor Day, surged to just 9,795 votes short (out of 580,538 cast) on Election Day.

"I think Maine voters in 2014 are going to sort of understand the lay of the land a little better than they did maybe in 2010," said Cutler. "They're going to know me better and for better or worse, they're going to know LePage better."

And should LePage win again, might they also forever remember Cutler as the "spoiler" who made it all possible -- again?

"The only people talking about 'spoiler' are people from one party or another," rebutted Cutler. "I didn't walk around (post-2010) saying Libby Mitchell was a spoiler. In fact, I tell people to stop saying it. I really don't believe that word belongs in our lexicon in Maine, in particular."

Why so?

"I think it demeans the process," Cutler replied. "I think it demeans democracy. I think it demeans choice. I think it demeans all the things that are -- or ought to be -- important to us as participants in the process."

Cutler has two problems with the notion that independent candidates tend to muck up the electoral process.

The first, he said, is the fact that the major-party candidates are typically anointed in the primaries by pluralities representing fewer than 5 percent of Maine's electorate.

(He's right: In 2010, Democrat Mitchell's primary supporters totaled 4.3 percent of all registered Maine voters, while LePage's Republican backers comprised 4.9 percent).

Secondly, Cutler said, Maine's long history of voter independence (see: U.S. Sen. Angus King) reflects an electorate heavily populated by what pollsters call "switchers" -- voters who care far less about party loyalty or affiliation than they do about the character of the individual candidate.

So back to that notion of Cutler with a "D" after his name. Ain't going to happen -- evah?

"I would not vote for me if I became a candidate in the Democratic primary," said Cutler. "It's just not me. I feel deeply about the state of Maine. I think I could be a very good governor. And I think I can do that most effectively, and certainly truest to myself, as an independent."

So buckle up, fellow Mainers, and get out your calculators.

Let the triangulation begin.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:



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