* Don’t stop if you’ve heard this before: Congressman Mike Michaud is the only candidate who can beat Gov. Paul LePage.

It’s the narrative aggressively advanced by the Michaud campaign and the Maine Democratic Party. One could argue it’s the central push of the Michaud campaign, which has repeatedly asserted that this election is a referendum on the governor and his tumultuous first term.

Well, on Monday, the campaign for independent candidate Eliot Cutler decided to take the narrative for a test drive. It argued that Michaud can’t beat LePage because last week’s Pan Atlantic SMS and the campaign’s internal surveys show Michaud “losing ground.”

“The data trends show that Michael Michaud can’t win, and that Eliot Cutler is the only candidate who convincingly beats Paul LePage,” the campaign noted in a fundraising email and on Twitter.

It’s true that Cutler does better head to head against LePage, at least two Portland Press Herald polls showed that. But using a head-to-head matchup in a three-way race to make the case seems a bit problematic, especially for the candidate sans party apparatus and get-out-the-vote machine. Also, if team Cutler is attempting to resurrect the electoral sentiment that led to his 2010 surge — that the Democrat is cratering — it will need to do better than showing the three candidates’ net favorability. After all, said Andy Smith, executive director for the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, it’s LePage whose favorability is rising. Cutler will also need to do more to show Michaud “can’t win” than selecting a few polls to make its point. According to the RealClearPolitics average of all the non-internal polling, LePage is leading Michaud 0.5 percent, 39 percent to 38.5 percent and Cutler is at 15 percent. The RCP average also includes the SMS poll that sent all three campaigns into F-5 vortex.

* On Monday Gallup generated a graphic that contains lots of good news for Republicans and not great news for Democrats in the midterm election:

U.S. Voters Give GOP Edge vs. Dems on Handling Top Issues

U.S. Voters Give GOP Edge vs. Dems on Handling Top Issues

According to its survey, Republicans have an advantage on eight of the nine most important issues, including the economy, ISIS (Islamic State), budget deficit and the economy. Democrats are leading on climate change and contraception, but the problem is that those issues are not as important to voters, according to Gallup’s testing. Even the Affordable Care Act, which has haunted Democrats for years, is falling in voter significance just as the party has begun to see an advantage.

The findings may have a bigger impact in congressional races, but one wonders if there’s any effect on the gubernatorial and legislative races, too.

* It’s no secret that the Maine race for governor is attracting national attention for many reasons. Smart Politics, with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, on Monday wrote that the election could have historical significance.

Smart Politics reviewed over 3,000 gubernatorial contests and found that LePage could be the first governor in history to win with less than 40 percent of the vote in back to back elections.

“For starters, only 11 sitting governors have ever won reelection without the support of 40 percent of the electorate – and only two in the last 100 years. In 2006, Texas Republican Rick Perry won his second full term with 39.0 percent of the vote in a five-candidate field in which four candidates landed in double-digits. Maine Democrat John Baldacci also won a second term with 38.1 percent that cycle. Prior to that, the last governor to get reelected with less than 40 percent of the vote was Republican William Spry of Utah in 1912. Spry won 38.2 percent to win a second term over Democratic challenger John Tolton while Progressive and Socialist nominees recorded more than 29 percent of the vote.”

There are governors who have won reelection with less than 40 percent of the vote. However, Smart Politics found that neither had received less than 40 percent the first go-around.

There appears to be one mistake in the Smart Politics analysis. It said that independent Lee Schultheis will be on the gubernatorial ballot, but Schultheis withdrew before the Sept. 5 deadline.

Schultheis’ withdrawal doesn’t change the math, though. LePage could make history if Cutler pulls more than 20 percent of electorate.

* The first televised debate will take place at the Augusta Civic Center Wednesday at 7 p.m. 

The forum is hosted by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and will be televised by Portland Press Herald media partner WCSH 6 and WLBZ  2. According to Jen Webber, a spokeswoman for the chamber, WCSH 6 host Pat Callaghan will moderate the debate. Callaghan will have some discretion on time limits to answer questions, which Webber said will not have in advance. Callaghan will ask all the questions, although the candidates will have one opportunity to ask the other one question.