The National Republican Congressional Committee gave Bruce Poliquin, the party's nominee for Maine's 2nd Congressional District, a boost this week, elevating his status on a list of candidates primed for national support during the 2014 election cycle.
Poliquin, 60, of Oakland, was chosen as the Republican nominee last week, with 34-year-old Democrat Emily Cain of Orono securing a win on the Democratic side. Their general election campaigns have barely begun, aside from the obligatory statements from national Republican and Democratic groups praising one candidate and bashing the other.
The NRCC, the national electioneering arm of House Republicans, raised Poliquin to "contender" status this week — the second of three tiers in its "Young Gun" program, which recruits and aids candidates who have a chance to win in November and elevates them based on benchmarks they meet along the way.
“I am confident that Bruce will continue to work hard for his district and bring sound, conservative principles to Congress,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., the chairman of the NRCC, in a statement.
It's no surprise that Poliquin's getting this recognition: Both he and his unsuccessful primary opponent, Kevin Raye, were given "on the radar" status by the NRCC in November. In March, Cain was recognized as a part of a similar Democratic program.
All of this is a signal that the race for the seat is seen as competitive. The Washington Post's Election Lab, analyzing national factors, gives Republicans a 63 percent chance to capture the 2nd District seat while favoring the party to widen its majority in the House and take the Senate from majority Democrats.
Elections midway through a president's term usually favor the party opposite the president, but the 2nd District seat, represented now by Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud, who is running for governor, has been held by Democrats since Republican Olympia Snowe was elected to the Senate in 1994. Also, independent conservative Blaine Richardson of Belfast is on the ballot, which could siphon votes from Poliquin.
But the 2nd District hasn't yet emerged among the top partisan targets: 21 Republican candidates have already reached the "Young Gun" program's top tier, while Poliquin is one of nine candidates on the second level. Neither the Republican or Democratic campaign committees have announced television airtime reservations here, either. Of course, that could change anytime.
Once Poliquin and Cain emerge from their primary honeymoon periods, the campaign will begin in earnest and poll results may start to creep out, enticing national operatives to spend more or less in Maine.