October 19, 2010

Internal poll shows Eliot Cutler running close third

But opponents question the accuracy of the survey commissioned by Eliot Cutler's own campaign.

By REBEKAH METZLER MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA — A poll commissioned by independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler’s campaign shows increased support for the Cape Elizabeth lawyer.

Cutler’s poll has him just one percentage point behind Democrat Libby Mitchell, placing him third. The poll has Republican Paul LePage leading with 32 percent, Mitchell with 27 percent and Cutler with 26 percent.

Independent candidate Shawn Moody had 6 percent, and 9 percent were undecided. Kevin Scott, another independent candidate, was not included.

The staffs of LePage’s and Mitchell’s campaigns questioned the accuracy of the poll, which surveyed about 400 people from Oct. 15–17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus about 5 percentage points, a release from the Cutler campaign said.

The Cutler poll marks a surge in support for the candidate compared with recent independent polling, although a recent independent survey also had Cutler making substantial gains. Last week, a Rasmussen Reports poll showed Cutler trailing LePage and Mitchell with 21 percent of the vote.

The Maine Poll, conducted last week by Critical Insights for MaineToday Media, had Cutler’s support among likely voters at about 11 percent.

Keith Frederick, the pollster who conducted the research for Cutler’s campaign, has served other Maine clients, including Gov. John Baldacci during his successful gubernatorial re-election campaign. The polling firm, based in Arlington, Va., also has also done polling for the First Wind energy company, the company’s website said.

Frederick’s current poll has Cutler with significantly more support than its earlier polling. A Cutler campaign news release said that the candidate’s support ranged from 13 to 15 percent of respondents surveyed between July and mid-September.

“We just put it out there,” Cutler Campaign Manager Ted O’Meara said of the recent polling announcement. “We felt, obviously, that things are happening out there, that the Rasmussen poll last week started to pick that up, and our own poll is confirming what we are seeing and feeling.”

Cutler on Saturday was endorsed in a Bangor Daily News editorial, which noted that his position in the polls as of Saturday was similar to that of Gov. James Longley, the state’s first independent governor, who came from behind to win.

Dan Demeritt, a LePage campaign spokesman, on Monday dismissed the Frederick poll.

“We don’t take a lot of stock in a poll paid for by a campaign that desperately needs to show momentum, nor do I think 25 percent of Mainers are ready to elect a Washington lobbyist as governor,” he said. “That being said, we’re happy the Cutler campaign paid for a poll showing Paul LePage in the lead.”

A Mitchell campaign spokesman had similar sentiments.

“As for the poll itself, we feel good that our opponent’s polling shows he remains in third place and that Libby is within the margin of error of lead,” said Jesse Connolly, Mitchell’s campaign manager, in a statement.

“Without knowing if these are the numbers from the initial horse race question or the final horse race question taken after the voter had been presented a series of positive and negative statements about the candidates, it is impossible to know how credible Cutler’s numbers are.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: rmetzler@mainetoday.com

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