Angus King switched from Cutler to Michaud. How much does it matter?

Angus King released a statement today that he is switching his endorsement from Eliot Cutler to Mike Michaud. You can read the full statement at the bottom of this post.

Does it matter? In brief, yes.

On a day that Cutler said voters should vote their consciences, his most high-profile supporter he had said he was doing just that.

Moreover, King is a politician who has very high approval ratings in Maine.

It’s consequential in part because of the substance of the endorsement.

King makes it clear that he’s not just doing this for strategic reasons, but that he also sees Michaud as someone who will make a fine governor for Maine.

Here’s the key paragraph laying out his views about Michaud.

I have worked with Mike Michaud for twenty years and know that he has what it takes to be Maine’s next Governor. He has lived the American dream — going from the mill floor in Millinocket to the halls of Congress — and he knows in his heart that everyone, willing to work for it, deserves a chance to get ahead. Mike believes in protecting our environment and finding new ways to grow Maine’s economy and, as I have seen first-hand, is absolutely tenacious in defending Maine’s interests.

You might ask, though, is this more important than King’s initial endorsement of Cutler?

Yes.

The first endorsement was much earlier in the cycle, before Labor Day. This is less than a week before the election.

When King endorsed Cuter, Cutler was in third place. Michaud is tied with LePage in recent polls. It’s far harder for an endorsement to make a difference for a third place candidate.

In addition, the earlier endorsement was expected since King had endorsed Cutler for governor before and then Cutler endorsed King for his Senate race.

Moreover, the first endorsement and Cutler’s candidacy had to contend with various conditions holding him back — Michaud’s long history with Maine voters, an organized party and groups against him, and the element of strategic voting for anybody-but-LePage voters which had existed in 2010 and also this year.

This matters because it is a signal to Cutler voters that it is ok to give up their support and it provides a substantive argument in addition to the strategic element.

It is most certainly politically consequential.

Voters seemed to be moving away from Cutler and toward Michaud. This is likely to accelerate that tendency.

Of course, the campaigns will continue and accelerate their get-out-the-vote efforts and those are also extremely consequential.

Full text of King’s statement

“Eliot Cutler is a fine man who would make a good governor of our state. He is a friend who I believe would be a true consensus builder, ready to put solutions ahead of politics. My feelings about Eliot on these matters have not changed since I endorsed his candidacy four years ago and again this past August.

“But, like Eliot, I too am a realist. After many months considering the issues and getting to know the candidates, it is clear that the voters of Maine are not prepared to elect Eliot in 2014.

“The good news is that we still have a chance to elect a governor who will represent the majority of Maine people: my friend and colleague, Mike Michaud. And today, I’d like to offer him my support.

“I have worked with Mike Michaud for twenty years and know that he has what it takes to be Maine’s next Governor. He has lived the American dream — going from the mill floor in Millinocket to the halls of Congress — and he knows in his heart that everyone, willing to work for it, deserves a chance to get ahead. Mike believes in protecting our environment and finding new ways to grow Maine’s economy and, as I have seen first-hand, is absolutely tenacious in defending Maine’s interests.

“This was not an easy decision, but I think the circumstances require that those of us who have supported Eliot look realistically at the options before us at this critical moment in Maine history.

“In the end, I believe that what drives us to the polls should be hope – not fear; what calls us to participate in the political dialogue should be optimism – not cynicism; and what informs our decision to vote for the Governor of Maine should be the belief in a system of government where every vote counts.”

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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.