October 29, 2010

Poll: Cutler up, Mitchell down, Scontras even

Paul LePage still leads the governor's race, but Chellie Pingree is in a statistical tie.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A dramatic shift appears to have occurred among voters in Maine's gubernatorial race and in one congressional contest, according to a new independent poll released Thursday.

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Paul LePage

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Libby Mitchell

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Independent Eliot Cutler moved up substantially to a statistical second-place tie with Democrat Libby Mitchell, who lost support compared with earlier polls. Cutler's support, which had been hovering around 11 percent, increased to 19 percent in the latest poll. Mitchell had 20 percent.

The poll had Republican Paul LePage with a 12 percentage point lead at 32 percent.

In Maine's 1st Congressional District race, Republican Dean Scontras has pulled into a statistical dead heat with Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, the new poll indicates. That differs sharply from previous polls that had Pingree with solid leads, despite a tightening of the race this month.

Critical Insights Inc., a Portland-based research firm, conducted its Fall 2010 Tracking Survey of Maine residents Oct. 13-17. The poll is based on 600 telephone interviews with registered voters.

The company does an independent tracking poll twice a year to measure Mainers' attitudes on the economy and other issues. Its poll is different from The Maine Poll, being done by Critical Insights for MaineToday Media.

Five percent of respondents to the latest poll said they would vote for independent Shawn Moody in the governor's race and 1 percent said they would vote for independent Kevin Scott. Twenty-one percent remain undecided, according to the poll, which asked people who they would vote for if the election were held the next day.

Mitchell and Cutler are statistically tied in second place because Mitchell's lead is within the poll's margin of error -- plus or minus 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. That means that if the poll were repeated 100 times, in 95 cases the results would be within 4 percentage points of those reported.

It's the first independent poll to put Cutler even with Mitchell. Earlier in the week the Cutler campaign released its own internal survey which had Cutler polling around 26 percent and Mitchell at 27 percent.

A poll released earlier this week by Pan Atlantic SMS Group of Portland had 33 percent supporting LePage, 28 percent supporting Mitchell and 14 percent supporting Cutler.

The Maine Poll done last week by Critical Insights had Cutler's support among likely voters at about 11 percent.

"(The new poll) doesn't reflect anything we're seeing anywhere else," said David Loughran, spokesman for Mitchell, adding that other polls have surveyed likely voters and not simply those who are registered. "Every poll up to this point has had a two-person race."

The Cutler campaign said its own polling shows Cutler and Mitchell much closer to LePage.

"Each poll is a little different and a snapshot in time," said Ted O'Meara, Cutler's spokesman. "But I think taking them all together, one consistent theme that is emerging is that Eliot's campaign is really taking off."

The numbers also were welcomed by the LePage campaign. "We're pleased that his base of support seems to be really strong," said Dan Demeritt, spokesman for LePage.

With LePage holding at about 32 percent, experts are watching the second- and third-place candidates to see if either one might gain enough momentum to challenge him.

"I think LePage's support is pretty steady," said Kenneth Palmer, political science professor emeritus at the University of Maine. "I think it's more going to be a question of what's going to happen with Libby Mitchell and Eliot Cutler."

The latest poll is bad news for Mitchell, said Michael Franz, a political scientist at Bowdoin College.

"Those numbers would suggest that Cutler is starting to show the Mitchell supporters that he's a better option," Franz said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Eliot Cutler

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Shawn Moody

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Shawn Moody

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