It's Friday, and that means it's time for another edition of Maine's Political Pulse, with Maine Public's politics team in Augusta, Steve Mistler and Mal Leary. Irwin Gratz and the team look at how the races in Maine are playing out as the candidates scramble to win votes in the last few days of their campaigns.
GRATZ: Welcome back gentlemen.
LEARY: Hello, Irwin.
MISTLER: Hey, Irwin.
Well this is it. The midterm elections are Tuesday so let's sum up what we think we know about the races entering these final days. First the race for governor. Do we have a sense of who's ahead now in the three-way contest between independent Terry Hayes, Democrat Janet Mills, and Republican Shawn Moody?
LEARY: Well, we have an idea of who's ahead. But the problem is all the polls - public polls - that are out there use a different methodology and the private polls being used by the candidates use, yet again, different methodology. But what it appears is that Janet Mills may have a slight lead in this race. All these polls have a margin of error of 4 or 5 points. So even if Janet Mills is up four points she may be actually down to a point.
Alan Caron, the independent, is gone, but Terry Hayes, the Democrat-turned-independent, is still in. Steve, is it a given that her votes will be coming from Mills?
MISTLER: No, it's not a given. I think there's an assumption that because Terry Hayes is a former Democrat, and a lot of the positions that she has taken during the course of this campaign aligned with a left-of-center ideology, that she will draw from Mills. And there's also an expectation, I think, from Republicans that she will, too, because they're basically running these ads that cast Mills and Hayes as the same. They're hoping that the two of them will split the vote and that will create a wider path for Republican Shawn Moody.
Turnout can be key in any race. Mal, do any of these candidates have a better get-out-the-vote effort?
LEARY: I think the problem with trying to assess that, Irwin, is that get-out-the-vote efforts are really local efforts. So, you go to some parts of the state, you have a clear advantage to the Republicans; other parts of the state you have a clear advantage to the Democrats. But, to your point that the turnout is crucial - it is crucial and could easily determine the governor's race.
Some of the ads we've seen in the campaign most recently have begun to turn negative. Is there any dirt that we know about that hasn't shown up in the ads yet?
MISTLER: Well, if there was more dirt we probably would have reported it. But what I have been surprised by - and I have to eat a little bit of crow here - is that Janet Mills is out with an ad that mentions this story that was reported earlier this month, where a woman alleges that Shawn Moody is guilty of sex discrimination because he fired her while she was pregnant. Now, that was an issue that I thought would come via an independent or an outside group, not Janet Mills herself. But she, in fact, has used that in a late ad that’s out on television right now, and it seems to be a response to Republican attacks on Mills that really targets what could be her strength in this election, which is how she resonates with women voters. It brings up this case where a sheriff's deputy was accused of sexual misconduct with minors, a case that the Attorney General's Office attempted to prosecute. The ad brings that up, and mentions that there was a plea deal where this sheriff's deputy essentially got off with not much of a penalty. What it doesn't mention - which is a really important piece of context - is that a jury found the deputy not guilty of two charges and it deadlocked on 20 others.
Let's look next at the 2nd Congressional District - it had always seemed to me that if any Democratic wave emerged nationally this fall, incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin could be in trouble. How has he handled the potential challenge that's posed by Democrat Jared Golden in this race?
MISTLER: Well, Irwin, I think he's basically run the prototypical incumbent campaign, which is to keep his head low, for the most part. He has participated in very few public debates - I think two - and basically trying to talk about his opponent as if he's this young radical insurgent who poses all kinds of threats to what they have come to expect from Poliquin. Whereas Golden - who is attempting to do what nobody has done since 1916, by the way, which is to unseat an incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District - he's talking about health care, health care, health care - and Bruce not being responsive to constituents.
Now, it seems like a lot of outside money is also coming into this race.
LEARY: Unbelievable amount of money. I'm seeing some figures that show it could be the most money coming into any congressional race from outside in the country. Those numbers keep changing day to day because more money keeps coming in. I think there's so much interest in the 2nd District - this race has always been close. This is going to be, probably, the race that is decided by ranked-choice voting.
All right. Sen. Angus King is seeking a second term. The polls say he'll finish first. But will he avoid a ranked-choice vote count against Republican Eric Brakey and Democrat Zak Ringelstein?
LEARY: Again, I think so. He consistently has been polling - in the public polls that we have access to - at 50 percent or more. If you see the votes breaking the way they usually do among the undecideds, he's going to be solidly in that 50 percent category.
All right. Lest anyone forget they will be voting on legislative races Tuesday as well, right now Democrats control the Maine House, Republicans the state Senate. Mal, my first question here is for you - I mean, historically these chambers do flip from time to time, don't they?
LEARY: I mean, it's conceivable that the Republicans could take the House and the Democrats take the Senate this time. The problem is these races are so local. In Maine people go door-to-door, because you literally can visit every single home that's in your district when you're running for the House. So you can have a Democrat win in a Republican district and a Republican win in a Democratic district if they work really hard and people like the message they have. The Senate's a little different. The Senate is more akin to a congressional race in terms of the money being spent. We're seeing money being spent now in state Senate races that used to be enough to get elected to Congress in this state. So, the Senate races are different. It all is so localized in each one of these races. It's very, very hard to predict.
MISTLER: And I know we're mentioning the legislative races last in this conversation, but they're really important. We started talking about the governor's race, right?, which is the person who's going to lead the state for the next four years, potentially eight. Well, what they're able to do will depend on the shape and the power dynamic of those legislative races.
Of course, we hope folks will get out there and vote, and I'm sure there will be plenty for us to talk about even a week from today. Gentlemen thank you very much.
LEARY: Thank you Irwin.
MISTLER: Thank you Irwin.
Originally published Nov. 2, 2018 at 8:45 a.m. ET.