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Maine Rep. Mike Michaud (D) official portrait
Mike Michaud would crush Paul LePage—
if only he could
PPP's new Maine poll has news that's both encouraging and depressing for Democrats hoping to get rid of the odious Paul LePage. First, the good news: LePage is one of the most unpopular governors in the country, with a miserable 39-55 job approval rating. The bad news, though, is pretty bad: If independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who allowed LePage to eke out a narrowly plurality win in 2010 thanks to his second-place finish, were to run again ... the same thing would happen again. Here are the results of various three-way trial heats with LePage, Cutler and various Democrats:

• LePage 34, Michaud 30, Cutler 26

• LePage 37, Pingree 31, Cutler 23

• LePage 36, Cutler 29, Baldacci 27

• LePage 37, Cutler 32, Mills 19

• LePage 37, Cutler 32, Strimling 15

The best Team Blue can do is second place, which is where Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree both wind up. Other options—ex-Gov. John Baldacci, Attorney General Janet Mills, and ex-state Sen. Ethan Strimling—fare worse, and I should point out that none of these would-be candidates are actually running at present. What's so teeth-gnashy about this is how badly LePage performs in one-on-one scenarios, without the left-leaning Cutler in the mix:

• 36-57 vs. Michaud

• 38-53 vs. Baldacci

• 40-53 vs. Pingree

• 41-49 vs. Cutler

Tom Jensen suggests that Democrats either have to pray Cutler doesn't run, or rally around him as they did with independent ex-Gov. Angus King's Senate bid last year and put forward an exceptionally weak nominee who doesn't split enough of the vote to make a difference. But I can't say I like plan B very much: For one, it allows Cutler to play hostage-taking politics with the Democratic Party, and for another, Cutler is actually the weakest possible opponent for LePage, according to these numbers. He doesn't have King's pedigree and profile, and even if Democrats nominate an utter Some Dude, the race would still look pretty much like a tossup.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

I'm more hopeful that a Michaud candidacy could persuade Cutler to pursue Plan A: sit out and let Democrats wreck shop. Indeed, Michaud has exceptional statewide favorables at 58-23 and, as you can see, a head-to-head would be no contest. Unfortunately, Michaud hasn't given much indication he's interested, and I wonder if he'd have a slightly difficult time in a hypothetical primary, given his conservative views on some issues like abortion. Here's what PPP found in a kitchen-sink environment:

John Baldacci: 28
Chellie Pingree: 21
Mike Michaud: 19
Emily Cain: 6
Janet Mills: 4
Jeremy Fischer: 2
Ethan Strimling: 3
Steve Woods: 0
Other/undecided: 16

Obviously, a field like this would never take shape—certainly I can't imagine Pingree and Michaud running against one another. But I'm a little surprised to see Baldacci, who was never terribly popular, in the lead, even if only narrowly; his favorables are underwater at 40-46, but among Dems, he's at 62-24. Michaud definitely doesn't have any problems with his own party, though: He's at 75-10 with Democrats, so I'm guessing Baldacci, who served two terms, retains the edge thanks largely to familiarity.

In any event, hope is not a plan, and Democrats will have to find a way to deal with Cutler. Perhaps they can terrify him into imagining what another four years of LePage would look like. Hey, it's worth a shot.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 11:21 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Call me immature (7+ / 0-)

    but your title is making me feel weird.

  •  I think a strong Dem like Michaud can win a 3 way (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike

    Pingree probably could win as well.  If Muchaud doesn't want to run (assume he has Senate designs ultimately) maybe the Dems talk to Cutler and offer a coin flip - heads he runs virtually unopposed by Dems, tails he doesn't run.

    So it would be a coin flip for who is the next Governor really.  Cutler or Dem.  

    Or we have another "Judgement of Soloman" situation.  

    "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness" -Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)

    by Jacoby Jonze on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 11:42:08 AM PST

  •  I wonder if Le Page faces a primary (0+ / 0-)

    or declines to run again.

    •  Primary LePage (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Spud1

      There is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction from both moderate Republicans and GOP establishment conservatives who feel that the LePage style - a disaster, just check Google or http://www.dirigoblue.com/ - that may well push a primary opponent forward. If his attitude and bluster continue to isolate him and render him an ineffective neutralized Chief Executive, that possibility will grow.

      Finally, I'm not 100% convinced he'll actually run for reelection given the factors above. He's mercurial, he might just tell the state to "take this job and shove it."

  •  This is why I can't make a prediction on this race (5+ / 0-)

    I know LePage is toast in a one on one race. But Cutler may just screw it all up again.

  •  This is why we need Approval Voting. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    betelgeux, Spud1, Dogs are fuzzy

    And for those who don't know what Approval Voting is, here is an explaination from electology.org/approval-voting

    What is Approval Voting?

    Approval Voting simply means that voters can vote for as many candidates as they choose... Approval Voting is more expressive than the typical way we vote — Plurality Voting. That's because Plurality Voting limits voter expression to only one candidate...

    How will Approval Voting affect spoiled ballots?

    Without a doubt, using Approval Voting will drastically decrease the number of spoiled ballots... If a voter approves anywhere between zero to all candidates (all combinations), then they've submitted a valid vote. To spoil an Approval ballot, a voter has to make the ballot unreadable — rather difficult. In fact, in the French and German studies referenced above, under 0.5% of voters managed to accomplish this folly (that's less than one in two hundred).

    Plurality Voting ballots are treated as spoiled whenever voters mark more than one candidate. The fact that voters do this tells us that they have more to say than Plurality Voting permits. Consequently, in the 2000 U.S. elections, nearly two million ballots were spoiled — almost 2%.

    Plurality Voting's spoilage rate of around one in fifty is almost four times more than Approval Voting. Had Approval Voting been used in 2000, not only would there have been no spoiler effect, but poll workers could have counted around one and a half million more voters' ballots.

    Does Approval Voting help major parties or minor parties?

    While this may sound impossible, we contend that Approval Voting is fairer to both major parties and minor parties. More importantly, Approval Voting is fairer to voters.

    Doesn't Approval Voting violate "one person one vote"?

    No. The term "one person one vote" refers to the weight of votes, not to how votes are expressed. And in Approval Voting, all ballots have the same weight.

    "Progress is possible. Don't give up on voting. Don't give up on advocacy. Don't give up on activism. There are too many needs to be met, too much work to be done." - Barack Obama

    by eaglekid85va on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:44:11 PM PST

  •  depends whether he's a top in that 3-way (0+ / 0-)

    and how much his partners weigh

    Warning - some snark above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ “If someone has a tool and is trying to negate your existence it would be reasonable to reciprocate in kind with your own tool.” - Dalai Lama XIV(sic)

    by annieli on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:10:42 PM PST

  •  Cutler allowed LePage to win? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JesseCW, LordMike, MrAnon, Yosef 52

    Cutler finished second, as polls indicated in the last week of the campaign.  Maybe Libby Mitchell, the Dem nominee, should have endorsed him and dropped out.

    That's a pretty hard thing to do when so many people have worked on your campaign, but it underscores the reality for 2014.  Dems may need to do what they've done with Bernei Sanders in Vermont.  Run nobody and endorse the more palatable Independent candidate to make sure they get rid of Lepage.  

    In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act--Orwell

    by jhannon on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:36:18 PM PST

    •  No sense when Cutler is back for 2014 (0+ / 0-)

      The blue team do it with King, but Cutler is not in the same position. He is back.

      I hope Cutler gets out. The poll shows clearly that he is now more a trouble than a solution.

      I would consider some appointment for him in the government, but not to leave him free way when there are Democrats that can run stronger and can win easier.

      M Michaud can run for governor, and J Baldacci would be a strong candidate for ME-02. J Baldacci was not a blue dog.

      •  ME-02 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gwilson

        Baldacci would be a tough sell for CD-2. It is far more conservative than CD-1, and Baldacci is pretty unpopular in the more rural CD2, where his school consolidation plan went over like a lead balloon. Michaud IS a blue dog; that's largely why he's held the seat here. Though FWIW, I think the diarist is mistaken about Michaud's abortion views being an issue for Dems. He's voted the right way when it counts.

        •  Baldacci was the US House rep for CD-2 before (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bruce Bourgoine, abgin, bumiputera

          becoming governor. Michaud won the seat left open by Baldacci.

          Form follows function -- Louis Sullivan

          by Spud1 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:30:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Like Spud1 tell (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Spud1

          and as I was telling, Baldacci keeps the seat before Michaud without become a blue dog.

          I think he would be interested again, and would be a strong candidate. If he crushes LePage for Governor he would have it done for the US House, because the Republicans would have not stronger candidate than LePage for the seat (their bench is also so weak after the defeat of Raye the last year).

    •  Actually, the last poll before the election (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eddie in ME

      had Mitchell just behind LePage, with Cutler ten points down.

      Form follows function -- Louis Sullivan

      by Spud1 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:29:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely there was fright flight... (0+ / 0-)

        ...in the last couple weeks that really inflates hypothetical Cutler's starting point. He certainly did achieve name recognition in 2010 that benefits him this far out but I'm rather unsure if one got into polling on Cutler's issue stances that respondents would have any idea what he stand for at all.

        •  Plus Cutler has remained very active since (0+ / 0-)

          the 2010 elections, with his group One Maine hosting monthly panel discussions (open to the public and available on demand afterward) on pertinent topics and he is on Portland's #1 talk radio show every other week.

          Form follows function -- Louis Sullivan

          by Spud1 on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 03:37:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Simply not true (0+ / 0-)

        Cutler was clearly ahead of Mitchell in the last week (at least) of the election.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/...

        In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act--Orwell

        by jhannon on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 06:01:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't have an answer but Maine deserves better (7+ / 0-)

    ...than this.

    "This is NOT what I thought I'd be when I grew up."

    by itzik shpitzik on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:20:49 PM PST

    •  Thank you. I agree we deserve better (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Spud1

      Although the Maine Democratic Party cannot be absolved for failure to develop a better field than this.  The fact that we're talking about someone like Baldacci - who only received 38% of the vote himself for Governor - running again is just sad.

      There are lots of very bright, ambitious young people in our state and party.  Why they haven't been able to get into a position to run for statewide office is a puzzle to me.  One hint might be in looking at our Constituional officers - we just re-elected the same folks who were ousted 2 years ago.  Good people, but maybe we should have taken the opportunity to bring along some new, younger faces?

      I wish I had the answer, too.  We need to figure it out quickly.

      •  We didn't just elect Maine's constitutional (0+ / 0-)

        officers, the Legislature did. And that is part of the problem - folks running to be the Attorney General, Secretary of State or Treasurer only need to win half of the 181 members, and do not campaign amongst the general population.

        Not having a lieutenant governor also means one less chance to run for state-wide office.

        Form follows function -- Louis Sullivan

        by Spud1 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:14:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Cutler is running, and has said so (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike

    Not on Tom's list is Steve Woods, who ran as an unenrolled (what we call independents) in the Senate race last year. He rejoined the Dem Party and announced his candidacy for ME-Gov in November.

    He has some interesting ideas, and a personal fortune - neither of which guarantee anything here.

    Form follows function -- Louis Sullivan

    by Spud1 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:23:29 PM PST

  •  Who are these idiots who would STILL vote Cutler? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike, Notreadytobenice

    "They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip."

    by TofG on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:25:52 PM PST

    •  If he polls higher than the Democrat in the race (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Spud1

      Shouldn't Democrats support him, like they did for Angus King?

      Republicans are far more socialist than Democrats. Just because they want to redistribute the wealth upwards does not make it any better.

      by MrAnon on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:20:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Unlike King (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bruce Bourgoine, stevenaxelrod, Spud1

        Cutler doesn't have much to offer. Lots of past experience in government, sure, but LONG past. King was looked upon very favorably from the beginning, polling somewhere in the 60s initially if I recall, before finally bleeding off some soft support that shifted to the Republican nominee.

        In 2010, Cutler's campaign saw something in the polls right before the election that led him to dump huge money into the race with ads that basically said "Stop LePage". Not why they should vote for Cutler, just "Stop LePage". And a lot of people shifted from Mitchell but not enough to stop him.

        Cutler's support is soft, and it will be lost to a credible Democratic challenger. He will finish with no more than 20% of the vote and LePage will be narrowly defeated if a real Democrat steps up. This is all assuming the governor seeks re-election, which as far as I'm concerned is heavily in doubt. Cutler's entire path to victory is based on a Democrat never gaining any traction.

        •  Good analysis on the zombie... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Spud1

          ...and the earlier Cutler gets in the race either officially or just continues in his current zombie strut toward saying so, the more time to really show Maine voters how poor he'd be as Governor. For the most part his campaign is more based on his being considered a "very serious person" (apologies Krugman) and not any accomplishments, record, or stellar resume.

    •  Ah, Cutler... (0+ / 0-)

      the Nader of Maine.

      "Valerie, why am I getting all these emails calling me a classless boor?"

      by TLS66 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:51:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Who are these idiots who would STILL vote Cutler? (0+ / 0-)

      Just to be clear, Cutler trounced Libby Mitchell in 2010 and was within a percentage point of LePage.  (Actually he was leading LePage for most of the evening, until the precincts in Northern Maine started reporting).

      So it's important to remember that question in 2010 was: "who are these idiots who would still vote Democratic."

      In that context, it really is up to the Democrats to put forward someone who is actually electable.  To be frank, finding a candidate who is actually a Mainer would help -- that sort of thing still matters downeast.

  •  LePage will not seek re-election (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JesseCW, LordMike, Bruce Bourgoine

    It has always been my contention that LePage will not seek re-election, and instead retire to Florida (keep in mind that he and his wife own no property in Maine, selling their house soon after he won in 2010).

    But depending on how nasty things get between him and the Dem controlled Legislature (and with members of his own party), he may decide to run - he simply cannot back away from a battle, no matter how much it will cost him or the Pine Tree State.

    Form follows function -- Louis Sullivan

    by Spud1 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:27:54 PM PST

  •  NRA leader live on MSNBC! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike

    This guy is a laugh a minute!

    •  I subscribe to the conspiracy theory that LaPierre (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, Ender

      is a secret Democratic plant to enable gun control. No one could be that clueless.

      I'm guessing he didn't mention the latest college shooting or the over 1,100 deaths by gun SINCE Connecticut.

      "They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip."

      by TofG on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:43:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  When NO Democrat can win the Governors race (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike

    why not take all that time and money and dedicate it to the State House while sitting it out for one cycle?

    Even running a "Some Dude" will just damage that "Some Dude" with a loss, and waste time and resources.

    That's assuming, of course, some wonderful candidate does not emerge, or that LePage doesn't screw up so bad the math changes.

    "I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy." Michel de Montaigne

    by JesseCW on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:38:34 PM PST

  •  Bill in Portland Maine should run (7+ / 0-)

    He'd certainly make Maine politics more entertaining.

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:40:14 PM PST

  •  Paul LePage in a three-way. (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks for that visual.

    Driving a stake into the lobe of my brain now that controls imagination.

    -

  •  and yet people push 3rd party canidates (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Notreadytobenice, ChurchofBruce

    and then wonder about messed up situations like this one

    •  Agree, this is a 2 party system. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      duhban

      Look what Nader did to our country in Florida.

      Canada is messed up because of three parties.
      U.K. also.

      We have a two party system. It is what it is.

    •  If the "third party" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      squarewheel

      Does better than the Democratic Party in the state, isn't the Democratic candidate the "spoiler"?

      Republicans are far more socialist than Democrats. Just because they want to redistribute the wealth upwards does not make it any better.

      by MrAnon on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:21:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  sorry no (0+ / 0-)

        for better or worse, like ir or not we only really have 2 viable national parties. And that's by design it's all we really have

        Outside of a few new england states that's it anything less is a quixotic bid that achieves nothing. Hell last time the this guy didn't even win.

        I'm all for moving to a system like germany but till we do we're stuck with what we have

        •  At a national level, yes (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Spud1

          But Maine in particular seems to be a hotbed for independents. We supported Angus King because he polled significantly higher than the Democrat in the race.

          Republicans are far more socialist than Democrats. Just because they want to redistribute the wealth upwards does not make it any better.

          by MrAnon on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:40:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  and yet how often does that really work? (0+ / 0-)

            it didn't work in 2010, it barely worked in 2012 and it doesn't look to be even near as good as running an actual democrat in 2014 against the most unpopular governor in the union.

            Sorry but your defense to me looks to be more about your own personal agreement then a factual comparison. I would welcome any evidence you have  that shows over a longer term that 3rd party candidates are viable even in 'independent minded states like Maine' but I simply do not think it exists.

            At the end of the day even in a place like Maine 3rd party candidates are more often a hindrance then actual help. Especially when they choose to run and knowingly play spoiler and let the GOP win. Frankly at that point they are either entirely too egotistical and prideful or they are actively trying to sabotage democrats. Either way I have little respect for them.

            •  In 2012 (0+ / 0-)

              It did not "barely work", King won in a landslide. In 2010 the Independent got more votes than the Democrat. There's no reason why he should be considered a spoiler and not the Democratic candidate.

              To be clear, I'm not some third party advocate here. I've been a strong supporter of the President and I've worked in campaigns for progressive Democrats. However, I think that strategically, it will be more productive for progressives to support an Independent who polls higher than the Democrat, if we want to elect left-leaning politicians.

              As for evidence that Independents are particularly viable in Maine, of the last 6 governors, 2 have been Dems, 2 have been Reps, and 2 have been Independents. Clearly from that alone, Independents/third parties are more viable there than anywhere else. Furthermore, out of the last 6 gubernatorial elections there, 3 have had Independents as the outright winner or runner-up. Even the remaining three have had Independents/Third Parties get more than 5% of the vote, which is more than they get in most parts of the country.

              Don't get me wrong, if the Democratic candidate polls higher than Cutler or any other Independent/third party runs, I'll support the Democrat. But if and Independent polls second or outright first, then wouldn't it make more sense to go with the flow than to possibly get an unpopular Republican elected (this can be turned both ways, of course)?

              Republicans are far more socialist than Democrats. Just because they want to redistribute the wealth upwards does not make it any better.

              by MrAnon on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 09:27:14 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  except here the 3rd party isn't polling higher (0+ / 0-)

                and frankly unless the democrats choose to utterly fold they rarely win on thier own merits. Which is effectively as I said at best hostage taking because of pride.

                How many of those elections have actually had strong democratic candidates when the independent won? I don't know maine politics but I suspect few if any. Clearly 3rd parties are only viable if one of the actual major parties steps aside or is so withered they can't field a nominee. Which ironically is how I suspect the GOP will be replaced if they are.

                The only reason I see that people vote 3rd party is as I said, a quixotic bid to show how 'independent' you are regardless of the actual real world ramifications of that decision.

                As to King, all the reports I read indicated an inept campaign and that he only won because the democrats conceded to what I personally view as childish antics and hostage taking. Fundamentally it's a selfish action for one's own glory and ego and to hell with everyone else.

                How and who you vote for is ultimately up to you but there's no evidence showing any support for 3rd parties. The fact that outside of Maine and Vermont (and only in special circumstances) they are no viable is proof enough of that.

            •  You're confusing "third party" with (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bruce Bourgoine

              unenrolled candidates (like Cutler or King), which by definition claim no party affiliation.

              Form follows function -- Louis Sullivan

              by Spud1 on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 03:40:27 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Righto... (0+ / 0-)

                King and Cutler specifically spout "anti-party" stances. King has even said he'll caucus with GOP (can't see it myself) if they obtain the majority - which is about playing to his no-party status message in Maine.

                These candidates drive their campaigns on the "very serious persons" model of non-corruptible innocent white hat sheriff personality that can be trusted to make wicked smart "sensible" decisions, especially fiscal ones, even if the medicine tastes bad.

              •  that's semantics though (0+ / 0-)

                either way you cut it we're talking about candidates that do not have a D or a R next to their name

    •  In 2010, the Democrats were the 3rd party (0+ / 0-)

      Worth remembering, the Democrats cratered, leaving Cutler and LePage in an extremely tight race.

  •  Michaud would blow LePage, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cinnamon, lineatus, DvCM, Debbie in ME

    if only he could.

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:57:06 PM PST

  •  Is there any (0+ / 0-)

    Way that Cutler would run on the Dem ticket?

    •  He's torched a lot of bridges... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gecko, vadasz, stevenaxelrod, Spud1

      ...and his One Maine and No labels strutting has in particular been aimed at dissing parties "as the problem."

      Finally, if he so decided to run as a Democrat, why should reasonably progressive voters in the party toss their lot in with a Lieberman style corporate pretend Dem?

      I believe many of the LePage fiscal pushes would have been also pushed by LePage if he had been successful; he just would have mostly dressed it up better.

      Finally and most importantly, Eliot Cutler, is not, repeat not, rinse and repeat again not going to rollback LePage deep spending slashes and regressive tax cuts which is what Maine must do in the long run to adequately invest in education, attend the needs of a poor state, and safeguard our Maine environment from damaging corporate activity.

      •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Spud1, Bruce Bourgoine

        For filling me in.  I follow this from afar -- am a Mainer by birth, but haven't lived there in a long time.  The LePage thing is such a disaster.  I was hoping there would be an easy fix this time around.  The demographics in ME are so complicated.

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