November 4, 2010

LePage rides rural Maine to Blaine House

Eliot Cutler's early lead, courtesy of urban voters, fails to hold up as small towns decide the race.

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

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There also were key factors within the campaigns that set the stage for LePage's win, political scientists said.

The collapse of the Mitchell campaign, for example, opened the door to Cutler's last-minute surge, Palmer said. "Somehow, the campaign never really took hold or came together."

Mitchell went up against a national anti-incumbent wave, as well as Maine history, he said.

"Maine hasn't had two successive governors from the same party since the 1950s," Palmer said. "Maine swings back and forth."

Maisel said Mitchell's decline became evident in the late stages of the race, in part because the campaign didn't have signs out, Maisel said. "When there were more (Shawn) Moody signs around than Mitchell signs, people thought, 'Are they giving up?"'

It's unclear how the negative advertising affected the race, the political scientists said.

The ads might have backfired on Mitchell and helped Cutler, who was the target of some of the most controversial mailings but did not respond in kind.

"I actually think the negative mailings from the Democratic Party may have contributed in part to Cutler's surge," Franz said. "The timing is conspicuous."

Maisel said the Democratic ads probably hurt Cutler more than they helped him. But instead of boosting Mitchell, they may ultimately have helped elect LePage, he said.

"The Democratic ads in the last four or five days against Cutler may well have been decisive," Maisel said. "(They) took people away from Cutler and gave them to LePage."

Finally, Cutler's surge may simply have been too late in this new era of early voting.

When Jim Longley came from behind in the polls to win the governor's race in 1974, virtually all voters cast their ballots on Election Day.

This year, about 30 percent of the votes were cast days or weeks before Election Day, according to Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

Some voters who cast early ballots for Mitchell would likely have changed to Cutler once it looked like he had the better chance to win, although no one can be sure if it would have been enough to change the outcome.

"He really didn't catch fire until the very end," Franz said. "How many of those early Mitchell voters would have made the same decision if they voted on Election Day?"

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:


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