Washington Post predicts Poliquin victory; Collins picks up another labor union endorsement

2nd Congressional District candidate Bruce Poliquin, after winning the Republican nomination in the June 10 primary election. BDN photo by Brian Feulner

2nd Congressional District candidate Bruce Poliquin, after winning the Republican nomination in the June 10 primary election. BDN photo by Brian Feulner

Republican Bruce Poliquin’s campaign in the 2nd Congressional District got a boost Thursday when the Washington Post predicted that he has a 64 percent chance of winning the election against Democrat Emily Cain and independent Blaine Richardson.

The Post’s Election Lab’s formula for making the prediction involves election data dating back to 1980 and national indicators such as the change in the gross domestic product, the president’s approval rating and how Obama fared in a given area in 2012. It also uses candidates’ fund-raising totals.

The prevailing political theory, which is backed up by historical fact, is that this will be a good election year for Republicans nationally because of Obama’s sinking approval ratings. The Post’s model appears to have put considerable weight on the national political dynamic in predicting a victory for Poliquin by such a margin, given the fact that Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud has won the seat six times in a row and Democrat John Baldacci held it for four terms before Michaud.

Michaud, who is giving up the 2nd Congressional District seat to run for governor, won the election with 52 percent of the vote in 2002; 58 percent in 2004; 71 percent in 2006; 67 percent in 2008; 55 percent in 2010; and 58 percent in 2012. In addition, the district has gone narrowly Democrat in presidential elections dating back to Bill Clinton. The Washington Post’s model also doesn’t take into account staunch conservative and former Republican Richardson’s presence in the race, which could siphon some support away from Poliquin.

However, Poliquin has arguably as much or more name recognition than does Cain, despite the Orono Democrat’s 10 years in the Maine Legislature. Poliquin has competed in unsuccessful bids for the governor’s office and the U.S. Senate and served as a highly visible and outspoken state treasurer for two years.

With momentum for Republicans building across the country, national conservative groups are likely to spend heavily in the race in an effort to widen the GOP’s majority in the U.S. House, though Cain will enjoy a heavy influx of outside spending as well. Pro-life Poliquin also has the strong backing of the religious community, which mobilized to help him triumph over former legislator Kevin Raye in the June primary.

Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, who is now running for Maine's 2nd Congressional District seat. Contributed photo.

Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, who is now running for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat. Contributed photo.

But the Cain campaign doesn’t buy it.

“On Nov. 4, voters won’t be making their choice based on polling or predictions from out-of-state newspapers,” said Cain spokeswoman Amy Cookson. “They will elect the person who shares their values and will best represent them in Congress. With her record of working across the aisle and staying at the table to help Maine people, we don’t need a poll to tell us Maine’s next representative to Congress will be Emily Cain.”

The only 2nd Congressional District poll since the primary, commissioned in June by the Portland Press Herald, found Cain leading Poliquin 44 to 39 percent, which was within the margin of error.

The Post’s Election Lab also predicts that Republicans are 99 percent likely to retain control of the U.S. House and 82 percent likely to overtake Democrats in the Senate. And it gave Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st Congressional District, a 99 percent likelihood of retaining her seat over Republican challenger Isaac Misiuk, who is a political newcomer.

Collins picks up another organized labor endorsement

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Reuters photo by Joshua Roberts.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Reuters photo by Joshua Roberts.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced Thursday that her re-election bid has been endorsed by the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council 35. The painters union, which is part of the national AFL-CIO, consists of 14 local unions in northern New England, including locals in Clinton and Kittery which represent about 650 workers in Maine.

The union represents commercial painters, glass and glazing industry workers, drywall finishers, municipal employees and federal workers at the Kittery/Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

“Sen. Collins has been an independent voice on Capitol Hill for Maine’s workers,” said Wayne Cummings of Local 1468, in a written statement. “When it comes to supporting job creation in Maine, Susan Collins has made local jobs a priority by working with employers and unions and directing funding for public projects to our state.”

The painters union endorsement is the most recent in a string of union endorsements for Collins, who’s one of the few Republican candidates nationally to receive support from organized labor. Unions supporting the Republican candidate include five union shops at Bath Iron Works.

The Maine AFL-CIO, the federation the unites many of the unions in Maine, has endorsed Collins’ opponent, Democrat Shenna Bellows, in the Senate race.

That may seem confusing. How can the AFL-CIO support Bellows when some of its member unions have endorsed Collins?This from my colleague Mario Moretto, who did some digging on this point: The Maine AFL-CIO holds a convention with delegates from its member unions, during which two-thirds support is required to win the federation’s endorsement.

According to Don Bilodeau of the BIW Machinists union, delegates who supported Collins, such as himself, abstained from voting. Because the opposing votes abstained, only “yes” votes were recorded. But even if the Collins supporters had voted “no,” Bellows still had the two-thirds majority needed to win the endorsement.
Endorsements made months ahead of elections are valuable for candidates trying to gain traction or raise money, but they don’t translate to every one of an organization’s members supporting the endorsed candidate. So while Bellows may have received the AFL-CIO’s endorsement and some individual unions may be endorsing Collins, what happens in a voting booth remains a personal decision.
UPDATE: It’s worth noting that the Washington Post Election Lab discussed earlier in this blog post says Collins has a more than 99 percent chance of retaining her Senate seat.
Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.