Maine’s 2014 governor’s race will be about one person: Paul LePage

With the new poll out from Public Policy Polling, a company that did an excellent job predicting 2012 races, and 2010 independent candidate Elliot Cutler saying he’ll run again, pundits are weighing on Cutler, LePage, and potential Democratic candidates.

All that can get pretty complicated.

However, if Gov. LePage runs for re-election, the race will come down to a basic choice: LePage or no LePage.

Simply put, LePage is polarizing.

The people who like him really like him. He has maintained his support base without almost any erosion.

But the people who don’t like him tend to really not like him. A good chunk of them are anyone-but-LePage voters.

Unless the governor changes a fair amount — whether involving policies, an ability to bargain and negotiate in a bipartisan way, or temperament — those dynamics won’t change.

And the likelihood that LePage will change much is pretty minimal. He has strong policy views and doesn’t seem to have the discipline to maintain calm for that long.

In 2010, the choice was also largely about LePage.

Cutler only did as well as he did because voters who were going to vote for the Democratic candidate, Libby Mitchell, switched to him in the last week, hoping to stop LePage.

Sure, Cutler had core support before then, but his final vote tally came from a combination of people who had him as their first choice and people who didn’t have him as their first choice but were voting strategically, hoping to prevent LePage from winning.

In 2014, there probably will be uncertainty through the campaign and then the anti-LePage vote is likely to consolidate.

This may put Cutler in the lead and it may not. That will depend on the ultimate mix of candidates and developments in the campaign.

But ultimately, if Gov. LePage is on the ballot, the 2014 race will be about one person: him.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.