Michaud-Raye matchup generating last-minute buzz

The matchup between U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and Republican challenger Kevin Raye in Maine’s 2nd District is the race that seems to be generating its share of political buzz as the 2012 campaign heads into its final weekend.

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Thursday contributed $82,000 to Raye’s campaign to jointly fund more airtime for a Raye TV ad that features retiring U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. Raye worked for Snowe for more than a decade, including as her chief of staff in Washington, D.C.

The NRCC named Raye a “Young Gun” over the summer – labeling the state Senate President a promising challenger to the five-term incumbent Michaud — but then largely stayed away from the race until this week.

Raye’s fundraising was nearly on par with Michaud’s during the third quarter, and his campaign released an internal poll Thursday that showed him slightly ahead — by 0.7 percentage points — of Michaud for the first time. Public polls this summer and fall have generally shown Michaud with a comfortable lead over Raye, who also challenged Michaud for the 2nd District seat a decade ago.

Raye’s previous internal polls — conducted by Eaton River Strategies, a firm owned by Raye campaign consultant Kathie Summers-Grice — showed Raye behind, but by slimmer margins than the public surveys. Michaud’s internal polls — conducted by the Washington, D.C., pollster Normington Petts, which polls for a number of Democratic clients — have shown Michaud in the lead.

Michaud spokesman Dan Cashman said the most recent Normington Petts poll, conducted Oct. 23-24, showed Michaud ahead by 22 points.