BANGOR – Eliot Cutler was finishing up a long radio interview about everything from county jails to lumber prices when host Dewey DeWitt threw in one last question.

“Certainly looks like an interesting race, and who knows?” said DeWitt, a host on WHOU-FM in Houlton.

“I know,” Cutler said, grinning back at DeWitt.

Cutler began a four-day swing across the state Friday morning in Aroostook County, greeting paper mill workers in Madawaska, chatting with voters over breakfast in Presque Isle and visiting shops in Houlton.

He finished the day in Bangor, where he grew up, rallying supporters and shaking hands at a high school football game.

Working on 2½ hours of sleep, Cutler said he was excited and confident that voters are moving his way.

“When you have this kind of momentum, it’s important to keep going,” he said after greeting voters in Old Town.

Two separate polls released Friday confirmed that there is momentum behind Cutler, who had either pulled even with Democrat Libby Mitchell or pulled past her, depending on the poll.

But they differed on how much ground Cutler has to make up to catch the front-runner, Republican Paul LePage. One put LePage 19 percentage points ahead, while another said the margin was 6 points.

Cutler, as well as his supporters in northern Maine, said they are convinced that he is closing on LePage.

“I don’t believe in polls, but I really think he has a good chance,” said John Fogel after meeting Cutler in Old Town. “I think, at the last minute, a lot of people will go for the independent.”

Cutler started his four-day “Jobs and Opportunity Tour” in Madawaska. He had planned to board a chartered campaign bus there, but began his tour by car after the bus broke down Thursday night on its way to meet the candidate.

Cutler’s staff brought in another bus to carry him and his growing entourage Friday afternoon.

Cutler’s wife, Dr. Melanie Stewart Cutler, and one of his brothers, Dr. Josh Cutler, were among those traveling with him Friday.

The tour felt at times like a homecoming.

Norma Folsom, a retired nurse who was having lunch with friends in Houlton, told Cutler that she was already a supporter, perhaps because she worked with his father when he was a physician in Old Town.

“He was a real gentleman,” she said.

Cutler assured Folsom and her friends that he can win. “I’m gaining on him,” he said.

Nineteen-year-old Cameron Lindsley of Bath and 18-year-old Tim Blair of Old Town stopped to shake Cutler’s hand in downtown Old Town.

“I’ve seen you on YouTube,” Lindsley told Cutler. “I pulled up and said, ‘Hey, that’s Eliot Cutler.’“

Lindsley said he hasn’t decided which candidate he’ll vote for, and he likes conservative candidates. But, he said, he won’t be surprised if Cutler wins. “He’s gaining momentum.”

In Bangor, about 50 supporters gathered for a rally and “welcome home” reception for Cutler.

Democratic state Rep. Steve Butterfield of Bangor got cheers and applause when he announced that he was endorsing Cutler.

“He won’t necessarily do what is politically easy, but he will do what is right and he will do what is needed,” Butterfield said.

Cutler told supporters that he needs each of them to talk to friends and make phone calls for the next four days.

“Four days of hard work,” he said, “and we’re going to bring it home.”

 

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: [email protected]