Diary

Midterm Races in Maine and Massachusetts

Maine has a Senate, gubernatorial and an open-seat congressional election this year.  First, the easy one.  Although she may not be the most popular Republican Senator among conservatives, [mc_name name=’Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001035′ ] does have the “R” after her name.  And she is apparently popular in Maine as evidenced by the fact she holds commanding leads in every poll taken, although there have been few.  When we talk about the Republican Party in New England, [mc_name name=’Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001035′ ] may be about as good as it gets.  My guess is that if she swings too far to the right, she risks alienation among the voters of Maine.  Her opponent- former state ACLU director- Shenna Bellows has failed to gain any traction as a candidate and the Democrats are not spending too much time trying to depose Collins.  Prediction:  Collins in a cake walk.

In the Governor’s race, incumbent Republican Paul LePage faces two challengers- Democrat Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler.  In 2010, LePage barely pulled out a victory over independent Cutler who actually outperformed the Democratic candidate, Libby Mitchell.  Some blame Cutler’s presence on the ballot as the reason LePage became Governor.  However, most polling leading into that election showed LePage with the win with several pundits throwing the race into the “solid” or “likely” Republican category.  The late surge by Cutler certainly hurt Mitchell, but this was a race LePage likely would have won regardless.  This year, the Democrats think they have a better candidate in outgoing 2nd District Congressman, Mike Michaud.  It should be noted that Mitchell was the state senate president in 2010 and a high-profile politician in Maine at the time, as is Michaud today. Under normal circumstances, given the fact this not a wave year and LePage’s approval ratings are not that great in Maine, one would expect Michaud to be consistently and firmly in the lead.  But, he isn’t.  One does not expect Cutler to pull in over 30% of the vote as he did in 2010.

Still, unlike independent candidates on the ballot who tend to hurt Republican chances, the dynamic is quite different in Maine- it hurts the Democrat.   Michaud is a better candidate than Mitchell was in 2010.  Thus far, Michaud has refused to debate LePage and vice versa if Cutler is on the stage.  Michaud’s excuse is that he is trying to depose LePage.  For his part, LePage predicts a landslide either way since his views differ dramatically from those of Michaud.  It is kind of ironic, however, that Paul LePage who was considered a Tea Party candidate in 2010 today receives the endorsement of such GOP establishment heavyweights like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, while the Obamas and Bill Clinton have weighed in in favor of Michaud. Nothing against LePage’s ability of prognostication, but I do not believe this will be a landslide one way or the other despite their ideological differences.  One expects Cutler to take 15-20% of the vote this year leaving 80% between the other two.  There is not much room for a landslide.  At this point, I am predicting a LePage victory by a very slim margin where we may not know the final results until a few days later.  However, if the trends continue as they are now, LePage would sneak out a 1-2 point victory.

In the seat being vacated by Michaud- Maine’s 2nd District- Republican Bruce Poliquin takes on Democrat Emily Cain.  Most polling shows a very close race.  Poliquin ran for Governor in 2010 but lost the primary to LePage, but eventually became state treasurer.  This will be another of those East Coast races to watch early on Election night to see how far the House will go.  Like the Governor’s race, this will likely come down to the wire.  With the caveat of revisiting this race at the conclusion of this series, I think Poliquin will squeak out a very small victory for the Republicans.

Moving south to Massachusetts, like Maine there is a Senatorial, gubernatorial and one interesting House race.  Like Maine, no one doubts that Senator Ed Markey will be reelected over Republican Brian Herr.  As a conservative, there is nothing to like about Markey.  He was one of the most liberal congressmen while in the House and is a climate change alarmist.  He epitomizes the nanny state by proposing national legislation regarding roller coasters of all things.  He leads by an average of almost 19 points over Herr in the polls, although Herr has improved of late.  Of the seven polls conducted in September, he still trailed by over 20 points.  In effect, it is way too little way too late.  Prediction: Markey by 18 points.

The children over at DailyKos like to lament the fact that in the open gubernatorial race (Democrat Deval Patrick is stepping down) the race is “over-polled.”  To them, it is inconceivable that a Republican stands a chance in the Bay State.  However, they gloss over the fact that Deval Patrick was the first Democratic governor of that state since the 1990 election.  They also gloss over the fact that Charlie Baker, the Republican candidate this year, lost by less than 7 points to Patrick. And what do those many polls say this year?  Since the beginning of 2014, there have been more than 35 polls with Baker trailing Martha Coakley (the Democratic candidate) by an average of almost 8 points.  Early in the year, he trailed by 20 points.  Of the many polls since September, that gap has been narrowed to 4.3 points.

Looked at any other way, Baker is surging at the right time. There are two possible reasons or a combination of both.  First, Massachusetts may just be ready to yet again elect a Republican Governor, or Martha Coakley is the worst campaigner in the history of Massachusetts politics.  Remember it was she who lost to Scott Brown in a special election to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate.  It should also be noted that unlike other states, an independent candidate in Massachusetts tends to hurt the Democrat.  In 2010, two independents pulled 9% of the vote from Patrick.  This year, there are three independents on the ballot.  Two weeks ago I would have given this race to Coakley by about 6 points.  Today, I am predicting a narrow Baker victory by about a point. 

Eight of nine Congressional districts are considered safe for the Democrats.  In fact, Republicans are not even running candidates in six districts this year.  They (Democrats) currently have the advantage 9-0.  Most political analysts consider the 9th the most conducive to the GOP.  However, John Chapman is a weak candidate thus far to take on William Keating there and instead all eyes will be on the Sixth District which is located in the northeastern corner of the state. The Democratic incumbent, [mc_name name=’Rep. John Tierney (D-MA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’T000266′ ], lost his primary and this creates an open seat.  Seth Moulton will be the Democratic nominee while the GOP will run campaign veteran Richard Tisei.  A mid-September poll by the DCCC had Tisei down by 8 points which is dangerously close for Massachusetts.  Later polls actually put Tisei up….by several points. If the more recent polls have any validity, the Democrats are in for an extremely loooooong night come November 4th.  I am not ready to go there yet and will have to look at more polling.  I will likely come back to this race at the end of this series, but as of now, I am calling for a Moulton 6-7 point victory.

Next:  Wisconsin and their red hot gubernatorial race