Update: Heard from a couple of people that the RGA ad that will run Tuesday will be a positive spot about the governor. If true, then viewers will see two positive ads about two of the three gubernatorial candidates -- at least for now.
The Republican Governors Association, a tax-exempt political organization that spent heavily during the 2010 Maine gubernatorial race and is expected to do so again this year, has purchased approximately $500,000 worth of television time, according to the Maine Democratic Party.
Rachel Irwin, the communications director for the Democrats, said the party was alerted to the buy by its media consultant. The purchase has not yet been reported by stations to the Federal Communications Commission. Irwin said the buy begins Tuesday and contains three flights that run through Sept. 1.
The purchase follows the ad run by Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud that began this week. It also comes as polls show that Michaud and Republican Gov. Paul LePage are in a tight race. A poll conducted for the Portland Press Herald in mid-June by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed that Michaud was a few percentage points ahead of LePage, but within the poll's margin of error. Independent Eliot Cutler remains a distant third, but Republicans are hoping the Cape Elizabeth attorney will surge and slice into Michaud's base of support. That scenario may require some Republican assistance, because Cutler's campaign has struggled to gain traction, financially and otherwise.
It's unclear if the RGA ad will be geared toward hitting Michaud in a way that helps Cutler, but a concentrated buy in southern Maine -- where the two candidates are engaged in a quasi-primary -- raises the question. Additionally, it wouldn't be the first time that a Republican group bought ads to bolster a progressive candidate with the hope of splitting the progressive vote. In 2012, a PAC controlled by Michael Adams, the attorney for the RGA, bought ads supporting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill that were designed to erode the support of front-running independent U.S. Sen. Angus King. King went on to win handily.
A spokesman for the RGA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Regardless of the tactic, it's probably a safe bet that the ad will go after Michaud in some way (That said, RGA did run a largely positive web spot featuring LePage as part of its American Comeback campaign). The RGA and its progressive counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, have been active in a number of gubernatorial contests this year and the majority of the ads will not be confused with the soft-focus, feel good spots typically preferred by the candidates' campaign committees.
Irwin said Democrats were not surprised by the ad buy because Michaud's grassroots support had allowed him to hit the airwaves before his rivals. She said LePage had set a negative tone during his term and that she expected the RGA to follow suit.