POLITICS: PennAve

Super PAC commits to spend $2 million against embattled Maine governor

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Politics,Betsy Woodruff,Maine,Campaign Finance,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Super PACs,Mike Michaud

A Democrat-backed super PAC called Maine Forward has committed to spending $2 million against Republican Gov. Paul LePage and for Democratic nominee Mike Michaud in the run-up to the Pine Tree State's elections this fall, according to the Bangor Daily News.

LePage is a top target for the Democratic Governors Association, and a report published in Talking Points Memo that he discussed executing Democrats in a meeting with a sovereign citizen group called the Aroostook Watchmen have only burnished their hopes.

LePage said that execution was not a discussion item in the meetings. But regardless, the news didn’t do him any favors.

And now it looks like he could face an enormous amount of outside money, at least by Maine standards. Roy Leonardson, a Republican consultant based in the state, said a buy of that size would be huge.

“When you use the word million in Maine, that’s an extraordinary amount of money,” he said.

He estimated that a week of TV ads in Portland, Maine’s largest city, typically costs $100,000 to $150,000. And as a point of comparison, the typical state senate race costs just $20,000. So seven-digit figures are always a big deal.

But that doesn’t mean LePage is toast. A few factors work in the governor's favor. First, he has a solid base of about 38 percent of the electorate that observers expect to vote for him no matter what.

“He could cure cancer and cause World War III on the same day and it would have no impact,” Leonardson said. “They are solid, rock solid, for the governor.”

Another plus for LePage is Eliot Cutler, an independent candidate who got 36 percent of the vote in the 2010 gubernatorial race that LePage won with just 38 percent. The Democratic candidate, Libby Mitchell, didn’t even break 20 percent.

And that isn't a fluke. In 2010, independent Angus King won the Senate race and the Democrats' candidate came in a distant third. So that's two statewide races in a row where Democrats have come in third place.

Ben Grant, the chair of the state Democratic party, says this time will be different, and that Cutler won’t be a spoiler.

“I call it the ‘s’ word, I don’t even say it,” he said. “We don’t think that’s how the race is going to shake out.”

He points to Cutler’s largely static poll numbers as evidence that his candidacy isn't generating enough enthusiasm to keep Democrats from ousting the governor.

“It’s going to be a challenging race, especially when you have Michael Michaud’s liberal special interest allies willing to spend millions and millions of dollars,” said Jason Savage, the Maine Republican Party’s executive director.

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