More polling data released Tuesday indicates that Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and 1st Congressional District Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree — who are both incumbents — are headed for overwhelming victories next month, though the outcome of the race for Maine’s open 2nd Congressional District seat is far less certain.
Data released Tuesday by the Portland-based firm Pan Atlantic SMS showed that former Democratic legislator Emily Cain of Orono is slightly ahead of former Republican State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin of Oakland 36.2 percent to 32.7 percent. Blaine Richardson, who left the Republican party for this campaign, is attracting about 6.3 percent, which indicates that Poliquin would likely be in the lead if Richardson were not in the race. The pollster noted that virtually all of Richardson’s support is from Republicans or independents, not Democrats.
A separate set of poll data released Tuesday by Critical Insights from a survey conducted two weeks ago showed a different sketch of the race, with Poliquin at 41 percent, Cain at 36 percent and Richardson at 6 percent. Either way, the race is close and Poliquin seems to know it, based on his 11th-hour reversal on whether he would participate in tonight’s televised debate with Cain and Richardson.
For weeks, Poliquin has maintained that he would not participate in any debate that also included Richardson. That led to the unlikely spectacle of Cain and Richardson — who on most issues are leagues apart ideologically — holding a joint press conference outside the State House in July where they called on Poliquin to attend the debates. In August, Poliquin asked Richardson to drop out of the race, which Richardson quickly rejected.
And then on Tuesday, Poliquin announced that despite his previous statements, he will participate in a CBS 13/Bangor Daily News televised debate that begins at 5:30 p.m. tonight.
Poliquin, who soundly defeated former Senate President Kevin Raye in the June GOP primary, has been neck-and-neck with Cain in previous polling, despite the seat having been in Democratic hands for 20 years. In August, an analysis by the Washington Post Election Lab gave Poliquin a 64 percent chance of victory and a Poliquin-commissioned poll in September put him in a dead heat with Cain.
However, the Pan Atlantic poll indicates that a full 25 percent of voters remain undecided in the political vacuum left by Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who after six terms is abandoning the seat to run for governor. That’s a strong indication that despite current polling, the final result might not be close at all, though it’s hard to determine which way the undecideds will break.
Also worth noting is that the poll was conducted in the latter half of September and doesn’t reflect the impact, or lack of it, of a series of aggressive television advertisements the two candidates and their supporters have waged on one another. As Pan Atlantic President Patrick Murphy noted in the poll’s summary, the race is “wide open.”
Collins and Pingree way, way, way in the lead
Collins, whose stance as a moderate Republican has made her at times one of the most visible members of the U.S. Senate, has as easy a path to victory as any candidate in this year’s elections. (Well, except for the unopposed ones.)
Pan Atlantic puts Collins’ support north of 68 percent, a full 43 percentage points ahead of Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows. Only about 7 percent of voters said they were undecided in this race. Bellows is widely considered to have run a spirited campaign, but the long-held notion that Collins is unbeatable is holding, leaving Bellows to consider whether she’ll use the stature and name recognition she’s gained in this race to springboard into another elected position.
Pingree is similarly far ahead in the 1st Congressional District race, according to Pan Atlantic, with 51.4 support compared to 10.4 percent for independent Richard Murphy and 8.7 percent for Republican Isaac Misiuk. Nearly 30 percent of respondents said they were undecided. Critical Insights put the young Republican, a University of Southern Maine students who is a newcomer to politics, in a better position, but not by much: Critical Insights had Pingree at 53 percent, Misiuk at 19 percent and Murphy at 10 percent.
Wowzers, this is a lot of polls to keep track of
For those who are counting, this makes three polls released on Tuesday alone. My mission (and bane) is trying to strike a balance that provides readers with a hearty summary without producing an alphabet soup of a blog that few will read. The polls each provide interesting insights about what voter blocs are supporting whom in the gubernatorial race, how northern and southern Maine voters are leaning and a variety of other data on Maine-specific questions. For your convenience, here are links to the raw data in the three newest polls, as well as links to some of the BDN’s recent coverage:
- A BDN/Ipsos poll, which asked about the gubernatorial race and a range of other topics. Check here for Mario Moretto’s story about the gubernatorial race and here for a blog I wrote earlier about the rest of the data.
- A second set of data from a Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll released Tuesday which focuses on a range of issues, some of which is described above. Click here to see what I wrote about Pan Atlantic’s first data release related to this poll last week. which attempted to put this and other polls in context.
- Critical Insights released polling data on the gubernatorial and congressional races Tuesday afternoon. This poll also breaks down which voters are leaning toward whom and includes some interesting non-political questions and responses on the quality of education in Maine and the prospect of a fee on your telephone or cell phone bill to pay fund the maintenance of land-line telephone services. This poll also showed a dead heat between Republican Paul LePage and Democrat Mike Michaud within 3 percentage points of each other in the governor’s race, with independent Cutler at 21 percent.