Things just got tougher for U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s bid for a third term in Maine’s hardscrabble 2nd District.

State Rep. Jared Golden, left, and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin are 2nd District opponents. Contributed photos

The Cook Political Report, a respected guide to races across the nation, switched the race from leaning toward the Republican incumbent to a tossup.

Democrat Jared Golden, a 35-year-old Marine veteran from Lewiston, moved up in the ratings Friday in part because he’s poised to take advantage of a national trend away from Republicans, the report said.

“Golden may be one of Democrats’ top candidates in the country,” the report said after painting a picture in which Golden can “contrast himself as a ‘Marine who runs into fire’ against an incumbent who ‘ducks into bathrooms’ when asked which way he’ll vote on repealing” the Affordable Care Act.

Still, the report said, Poliquin “won’t be easy to beat,” as it pointed out that no incumbent has failed to win re-election in the district since 1916.

Whether Poliquin ducked into a bathroom to avoid questions last year is an iffy allegation at best. His campaign insists the congressman simply had to use the restroom.

The Maine Republican Party dismissed the toss-up designation.

“Every two years we hear the same, tired story: ME-02 is a toss-up,” it said. “Every two years we prove that it isn’t. We look forward to history repeating itself again this November.”

Ratings from experts such as Cook’s, though, do have an impact on races because contests that are considered close attract more outside spending and donations.

It makes it more likely that political action committees on both sides will devote resources to defending or attacking the candidates.

Steve Collins can be contacted at:

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