As the race for the Blaine House comes to a climax, a new poll shows 1-in-5 Mainers are still undecided.
Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud leads Republican Gov. Paul LePage 37 percent to 35 percent, according to The New York Times/CBS News survey, with independent Eliot Cutler with just 7 percent support. A whopping 21 percent are undecided.
What this poll, released just eight days before Election Day, reveals is a disturbing trend for Cutler, who was banking on a last minute surge of support. Instead, voters who might have supported him are drifting into the undecided camp, indicated as many have said, that support for Cutler has always been soft.
But the crosstabs of the survey also reveal bad news for LePage. That’s because of the 21 percent of undecided voters – who will undoubtedly sway the razor-close election if they turn out to vote – 26 percent identify as “liberal,” 24 percent as “moderate” and just 12 percent as “conservative.”
LePage has been a polarizing figure even within his own party, and it’s unlikely a significant portion of those liberal – or even moderate – voters will decide to cast a ballot for him. In fact, most of LePage’s campaign strategy has focused on building enthusiasm within his base, turning out the vote and building a legitimate three-way contest so as to split the anti-LePage vote – essentially a repeat of 2010.
What’s clear is LePage’s base has a clear floor and ceiling, between 33-38 percent of the Maine electorate – in fact, his polling has remained in that zone in nearly every poll since his initial election. It would be enough to return him to office if there was a more even split between his opponents.
Unlike four years ago, Cutler’s late-in-the-game polling shift appears downward and Michaud, bolstered by consistent Democratic support, coalescing interest groups and a series of high-profile surrogates, isn’t cratering like 2010 Democratic nominee Libby Mitchell.
A couple words of caution: Any poll only shows a snapshot in time, and this one clearly shows Maine’s race could still be won by either LePage or Michaud. The poll surveyed 1,177 voters between Oct. 16-23. The more days a poll takes to complete, the more muddled the results. And any survey is only as good as its sample of likely voters – just ask Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who was shocked on election night with a loss because his pollsters were misreading the electorate and had projected a win.
That said, the tea leaves suggest there’s a likely slight advantage for the Democrat.