Yes, Michaud could win

Mike Michaud’s announcement of an exploratory committee for a run for Maine’s governor shook up the race.

Michaud has had a very strong electoral record in the second congressional district and has done very well in areas where Gov. LePage would have to do pretty well.

Last year, when people thought that Kevin Raye had a decent chance against him, in a district redistricting had made slightly more Republican than before, Michaud won 58% of the vote.

His worst race since his first was 2010, the year Republicans did very well nation-wide and the party captured Maine’s governorship and both houses of the Maine Legislature.

Michaud’s tally? A strong 55%.

It’s hard to compare vote percentages between a two-way race and a (mostly) three way race, but, still, it tells you something. So here goes.

2010 vote percentages

  Paul LePage Michael Michaud
Aroostook County 42% 57%
Washington County 42% 57%
Lewiston 38% 57%
Machias 40% 51%

In three places where LePage did better than his state-side average — Aroostook and Washington Counties and the city of Machias — his best vote was 42%. In those places, Michaud did between 11 and 15 percentage points better than LePage.

And in Lewiston, often a key swing point for statewide races, Michaud did 19 percentage points better.

Michaud did very well in those areas, in one of the most challenging elections for Democrats in Maine.

In 2014, Michaud has a very good chance of at least eating into the LePage vote in those locations.

In Lewiston in particular, it’s hard to imagine LePage doing as well as he did in 2010, not after his behavior after the fires.

Now, of course, the governorship will again be a three way (plus) race. Mr. Cutler wants very much to be governor.

But Cutler’s vote in 2010 benefitted from an anti-Democrat backlash that year and from becoming what seemed to be the best chance to beat LePage.

He had his own supporters, to be sure, but his final vote tally reflected broader dynamics.

Cutler trailed Libby Mitchell for most of the race and, when it looked like she was unlikely to win, numerous Democrats flocked to him to try to prevent a LePage win.

Since the election, Cutler has been fairly quiet, not taking many positions on what has been going on in Maine. His group, OneMaine, held some useful panels on a series of issues, but its latest event was in February.

And it could be that he will do well in 2014, with a base in the first congressional district and a focus on social issues.  If Michaud falters, he will surge.

LePage can’t be counted out. His base has been very loyal (although there are schisms between Establishment and Ron Paul/Tea Party Republicans).

Maine’s economy has been doing more poorly than the nation and region. His record will matter, including his disdain for compromise.

Thus LePage’s best chance, as always, would come from a repeat of a 2010 scenario, a split opposition.

But a critical dynamic for 2014 will be the split between LePage and Not LePage. Voters who want Not LePage will watch the polls closely.

Moreover, in Maine, typically Republicans win statewide when they do well in the second congressional district. This time LePage has a strong competitor on that turf.

Note: Language relating to Cutler’s activities has been modified from the original post, which wrongly stated he did not take a position on Election Day registration. In fact, Cutler called for its restoration. That section now includes a sentence on the recency of OneMaine’s public activities. It should be noted that OneMaine is its own entity and is separate from a campaign organization.

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.