PORTLAND – The election is just around the corner, but Eliot Cutler said he doesn’t look at it that way.

A lot can change in four days, he said.

“Each day is important. Each day more and more voters will decide,” Cutler said.

Cutler is counting on it.

With polls showing he and Democrat Libby Mitchell still trailing Republican Paul LePage, the Independent candidate from Cape Elizabeth hit the radio waves and the debate circuit Thursday looking for votes.

His staff, meanwhile, made the final preparations for a cross-state bus tour that Cutler will begin before dawn today at the front gate of a paper mill in Madawaska.

The “Jobs and Opportunity Tour” will stretch from the northern tip of Maine to the southern tip, with campaign events and rallies along the way in Bangor, Ellsworth, Rockland, Auburn, Saco and other communities over the next four days, LaCasse said. It will end with an election-eve rally Monday at 5:15 p.m. in Portland’s Monument Square.

Field Director Kaitlin LaCasse and volunteers loaded a 29-seat diesel-electric hybrid bus with campaign signs in Portland and headed north. Cutler would travel later from Lewiston. “We’ve had the bus tour in the back of our minds for a while,” said LaCasse, a 27-year-old Scarborough native and one of about 12 full-time staffers on the campaign.

Cutler will be joined on the bus by various guests and political supporters. Lewiston Mayor Laurent Gilbert and Democratic state Sen. Dennis Damon, D-Trenton, were on the bus Thursday for the start of the tour.

Cutler started his day Thursday by making his final pre-election visit to the Portland studio of The Ray and Ted Show on WLOB radio.

Hosts Ray Richardson and Ted Talbot criticized the Republican and Democratic parties for negative campaigning. Cutler also pointed blame at LePage and Mitchell because they have not publicly asked for negative political ads to stop.

“I think it is the responsibility of candidates to stand up for what they believe in,” he said.

Callers to the live show wanted to know whether Cutler would fight to reject the federal health care reform law passed last spring.

Cutler said he would not, and would instead seek waivers for some pieces of the law and take advantage of the parts that can help reduce costs and create competition, especially between health care providers.

“The federal government is saying we’re going to give you waivers and we’re going to provide money to help you,” Cutler said. “I don’t want to walk away from that.”

After the show, a tired Cutler said he’s feeling much more confident with just four days left than he was earlier, with weeks or months to go.

“I’ve gotten past the challenge of making people believe I can win, now I’ve got to make people believe I can turn the state around,” Cutler said. “This is doable. We really can turn this around.”

Cutler is hoping the bus tour will help get voters to believe. He said he can clearly win, saying Jim Longley, another Independent candidate, shot up from about 20 percent support in the final days before winning the 1974 election.

“This is going to be a tight finish.”

 

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

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