Ethan: Can you feel it?

Phil: Feel what?

Ethan: The turning?

Phil: The turning of the leaves or the turning on of the television to watch the Patriots?

Ethan: The turning on of the official political clock. Labor Day is behind us and we are now officially into political season – my favorite season of the year!

Phil: Most of us are still enjoying the precious remaining days of summer. You need help.

Ethan: My wife says the same thing.

Phil: Let me try to give you (and our readers) some therapy, by preparing you for what’s coming.

Ethan: TV ads! Direct mail! Phone calls! Door knocking! Absentee ballots! Letters to the editor! Debates! Editorials! GOTV (Get out the vote)!

Phil: You left out push polling, black ops and social media trolling. If people are already sick of politics, they haven’t seen anything yet. Let’s assess the major campaigns and where they stand.

Ethan: I would say Michaud is exactly where he wants to be. Most polls show him with a 3-5 point lead. You can’t ask for much more against an incumbent. Plus, the party is as united as it has ever been, his favorables are strong, the ground game is well-organized and his financial backing is excellent.

Phil: Other than being slightly behind in the polls, I would say the same for LePage. Money solid. Unity solid. His favorables are a bit low at the moment, but the positive ads that are running should push that number up and raise his potential ceiling into the 40s.

Ethan: A bit low at the moment? When have his favorables not been low?

Phil: Cutler is definitely not where he wants to be in terms of polling and cash. But he is in a solid position to capture votes should Michaud stumble. And with Democrats having come in third in the past two statewide races (Libby Mitchell and Cynthia Dill), he is counting on the this third time being the charm.

Ethan: That is kind of like showing up at the prom hoping the queen will drop her date for you. Most people go home disappointed with this strategy.

Phil: Now I understand why Mary thinks you need help. How about the U.S. Senate race? Is Shenna Bellows gonna be able to break 30 percent against Susan Collins?

Ethan: For sure. She has positioned herself well for the final stretch. The “walk across Maine” solidified her standing among Democrats and introduced her to many people who wouldn’t know her otherwise.

Phil: And many people smiled politely, shook her hand, and will then go into the voting booth to vote for Susan Collins. Collins’ level of popularity is verging on iconic (rightfully so) and will put her on the same plane as Margaret Chase Smith and George Mitchell.

Ethan: I am just saying that Shenna is turning out to be a much stronger candidate than many expected. She has money in the bank. She is very likable on camera. And she is working her butt off. She is turning out to be the Little Engine That Could.

Phil: But won’t. How about the Legislature? With Republicans starting out with more candidates on the ballot than Democrats, I think we are well positioned to make a run at both gavels.

Ethan: You would be if your heralded “150 full-slate press conference” hadn’t already become the “not quite a full slate anymore press conference.” The numbers you have lost due to people living in the wrong district or having never wanted to run in the first place is staggering. Methinks the Elephant Party is a bit oversold.

Phil: Spin, my brother from another mother, spin. The fact is more Republicans are on the ballot than Democrats. Historically, it’s the other way around, which is why it is plausible for Republicans to gain strength in the House and Senate on Election Day.

Ethan: “Plausible” to “gain strength.” Not much of an endorsement for regaining control. You need more than just a pretty face on the ballot. You need a message.

Phil: Lower taxes, smaller government and a growing economy sound pretty good to me. Let’s wrap up with the congressional races.

Ethan: Races? I believe there is only the one being run – between Bruce Poliquin, Emily Cain and Blaine Richardson.

Phil: You are forgetting my boy Isaac Misiuk versus Chellie Pingree.

Ethan: As I said, there is only one. I appreciate Isaac’s exuberance, but the Vegas over/under on him is 35 percent, and I am taking the under.

Phil: I have faith in the young man and will take the over! That said, you are correct that Poliquin versus Cain is certainly the race to watch. Republicans see this as a seat they can add to their majority in the U.S. House, and analysts give him a 60 percent chance of winning.

Ethan: Sixty percent seems high to me, but I’ll save my reasoning for next week when we can dedicate an entire column to this barn burner.

Phil: The political clock is ticking. Tick tock, tick tock …

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