The Portland-based Maine Peoples Resource Center released a poll Monday showing that the race for the Blaine House remains a statistical dead heat with less than 100 days left before Election Day.
The automated telephone poll of 796 likely voters showed Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud leading Republican Gov. Paul LePage by less than two points, 42.6 percent to 41.4 percent, while independent Eliot Cutler is a distant third at 12.6 percent. Michaud's lead is within the poll's 3.47 percent margin of error.
A few quick takeaways:
* LePage's 41.4 percent appears to be a new high-water mark for the governor, at least among publicly released surveys. A Rasmussen poll conducted in April had LePage and Michaud tied at 40 percent, while Cutler was at 14 percent. It was the first time that the governor hit the 40 percent mark since surveys began tracking the race in March of last year. Here's the trend line put out by the Michaud campaign. Here's the one published by Real Clear Politics, which discards partisan polls.
* MPRC's poll was released the same day that the Michaud campaign announced that it would begin running a television bio ad beginning Tuesday. The campaign originally confirmed that it was running ads after Labor Day, which is pretty much the standard for the political season. It's unclear if this poll, or other internal polls, has prompted the campaign to go up sooner, or if the ad buy that begins Tuesday is separate from the $1 million post-Labor Day purchase that the campaign reported last week.
* The MPRC poll shows Cutler at his lowest level of support of all the polls published since March. If we are to believe all of the poll results, then the independent continues to trend downward. That said, Michaud's lead over LePage -- if you want to call it that -- is still within the margin of error of many surveys, including a poll commissioned by the Portland Press Herald. Why is that? Is the so-called anti-LePage vote weaker than pundits have suggested?
* The MPRC poll shows that 45.8 percent of respondents think that Michaud will win, compared to 42.6 percent for LePage and 6.6 percent for Cutler. This is a big change from the PPH poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center which showed that 43 percent thought Michaud would win, while 31 percent thought the governor would win and another 19 percent were unsure. UNH Survey Center Director Andrew Smith said in June that respondents’ opinions about who will win can be a more accurate forecast than questions about their preferred choice, an observation backed by a 2012 study by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. The study has led respected polling firms to add the predictive question to their electoral surveys.
* MPRC did not release results related to the congressional races
, so it's unclear if those contests were polled because those races were not polled. It did release a number of policy questions related to aging and other issues that are of particular importance to women. MPRC communications director Mike Tipping said the women vote could be the key to Michaud's victory:
"Among men, LePage leads with a 6-point margin. It's Michaud's 7-point advantage among women that puts him one point ahead in the poll, well within the survey's +/-3.47% statistical margin of error (at the 95% confidence level). Women also represented 75% of undecided voters in the poll.
While women have voted at a slightly higher rate than men in elections since the 1960s, they also have shown greater turnout variability, especially among younger and unmarried women.
National research has shown that it isn't necessarily policy areas traditionally thought of as "women's issues" that get women to the polls, and this survey confirms that dynamic. The gender gap on issues like raising the minimum wage above $10 an hour (which 62.7% of Mainers support overall) and universal access to public pre-kindergarten (which 64.3% of Mainers support) is actually larger than on issues like whether private insurance plans should be required to cover the full cost of birth control (which 52.2% of all Mainers support)."