Will Cutler “Apology-gate” come up in upcoming debates?

Eliot Cutler and Mike Michaud at a candidates forum. October 10, 2014. Photo: Troy R. Bennett l BDN

Eliot Cutler and Mike Michaud at a candidates forum. October 10, 2014. Photo: Troy R. Bennett l BDN

Apology-gate?

That’s a tongue-in-cheek name for Cutler’s statements during and then after the first televised debate.

Debates mattered so much to independent candidate for Maine governor Eliot Cutler that he spent campaign money running ads about them.

But in the last televised debate, Eliot Cutler sounded somewhat rude, saying to Rep. Mike Michaud, “Listen to this, Mike, you’ll learn something.” 

As Bangor Daily News reporter Christopher Cousins noted, the perception has been that Cutler “came across as arrogant and maybe insulting” and “has done little to dispel the notion that he is smart but pompous and sometimes mean.”

But where’s the “-gate” part of “Apology-gate”?

The “Apologygate” comes from Cutler’s explanation of to whom he apologized and when.

1. In a television interview after the debate, Cutler said he apologized to his staff.

Why his staff? Likely because it was a sort of gaffe, since it reinforced perceptions of Cutler’s temperament, perceptions which are a weakness for his candidacy.

Temperament has mattered both because LePage has been known to say rather strong statements and to act whimsically or even erratically, while Michaud has a long history of being calm and collegial.

2. But here’s the key that makes this is a “gate.”

Cutler also said he didn’t apologize to Michaud because Michaud had left the stage too soon.

However, video shows that in fact Cutler and Michaud had some time together on the debate stage after the debate was over.

Is this a big deal? Unlikely.

However, it doesn’t help Cutler do what he needs to do and it adds another element to his image while reinforcing the image people already have of his temperament.

Shading the truth undermines Cutler’s presentation of himself as the non-politician truth-teller.

As everyone following this race, including, most recently, the New York Times, knows, splitting the anti-LePage vote provides LePage a path to victory.

At a time when the Republican party is spending money to boost Cutler, anything that holds Cutler’s vote back or decreases it, matters for the outcome of this race.

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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.