Eliot Cutler isn’t acting like a man who’s been running a distant third in all public opinion polls to date.
Cutler, speaking to an energized crowd of more than 150 supporters packed inside Ocean Gateway in Portland on Wednesday, said he’s committed over the next 60 days to turning the electoral tide in his favor.
“The political parties have offered us two lousy candidates,” Cutler said, referring to Republican incumbent Gov. Paul LePage and Democrat Mike Michaud. “One doesn’t belong and one simply isn’t qualified.”
The event was both an announcement of Cutler’s campaign co-chairs (there are 13 – four Republicans, four Democrats and 5 independents) and a post-Labor Day relaunch of his campaign.
The campaign, which struggled all summer to gain momentum, received a boost late last month when U.S. Sen. Angus King offered his endorsement, and Cutler has recently purchased television time to air a pair of advertisements.
There has not been a public poll for at least two months. A University of New Hampshire Resource Center poll commissioned by the Portland Press Herald in June showed Michaud leading LePage 40 percent to 36 percent, although that lead was within the margin of error. Cutler trailed with 15 percent support.
But the poll also revealed that 48 percent of voters are still undecided and Cutler is going hard after that group.
LePage, Cutler said, is “an object of curiosity,” who has been “embarrassing and inept,” during his first term. Michaud, Cutler said, is a nice guy who “may help us feel better but won’t help us do better.”
Lizzy Reinholt, Michaud’s campaign spokeswoman, called the personal attacks “unfortunate.”
“Mainers are tired of the last fours years of negativity and divisiveness, which is why there is so much momentum and support for Mike’s campaign,” she said. “He is a proven leader with a track record of bringing Democrats, Republicans and independents together to strengthen the economy, increasing access to affordable health care, and create jobs.”
LePage’s campaign spokesman, Alex Willette, had a similar reaction to Cutler’s comments.
“Once again we see one of our opponents take a personal swipe at the Governor because they know they cannot attack Governor LePage’s record of job creation and streamlining government,” Willette said. “Eliot does a pretty good job at assessing Congressman Michaud though.”
As he has done many times before, Cutler also reiterated the point that he is the only candidate not beholden to parties or special interests. He told supporters that is how he would govern as well.
“I don’t care where the good ideas come from,” he said. “Good ideas are good ideas, plain and simple.”
Cutler even poked fun at the recent visit by former President Bill Clinton, who campaigned Tuesday in Portland for Michaud, by referring to Dennis Damon, one of his campaign chairs and the master of ceremonies Wednesday, as his “Bill Clinton.” Damon is a former Democratic state senator.
Damon played along, even offering to pose for photos, as Clinton did.
“I’ll only charge $500,” he said.