Nobody will accuse Eliot Cutler for lacking confidence.
After all, the license plate on his campaign van reads, "Nxt gov."
But after a recent Public Policy Polling robo-poll showed the independent candidate for governor losing ground in what was a five-way race — now six-way following John Jenkins' write-in candidacy — political junkies might be wondering if Cutler's confidence is drifting toward bravado.
Clearly, Cutler doesn't think so.
"Polls are lousy predictors," Cutler said Tuesday, adding that polls taken before the June primary showed Republican candidate Les Otten way ahead of eventual winner Paul LePage.
Cutler also addressed a recent MPBN report in which he claimed Democrats have been urging him to drop out of the race because he's siphoning support from Libby Mitchell, all but ensuring a LePage victory in November.
"There's been a concerted effort by the Democratic Party and their campaign to get me out of the race," Cutler said Tuesday.
Cutler declined to identify who had approached him, saying, "I don't want to embarrass anyone."
"I guess (Mitchell) thinks she'd do better if I wasn't in the race," Cutler said. "Well, tough. I'm in the race, I'm staying in the race, and I'm going to win it."
Cutler said his campaign was poised for a surge with the approach of televised debates. Not only does he think he can draw undecided voters, but also LePage supporters.
"The more people pay attention to this election, the more I think will come off (LePage)," he said.
As for Mitchell, Cutler said he'd rarely "seen a Democratic candidate for governor who inspired less enthusiasm."
"I can't find anyone who's excited about her," he said. "I think they view (Mitchell) as representative of a past they don't want to repeat."
Cutler isn't concerned that the last independent governor, Angus King, was polling around 20 percent at this point in 1994. That's according to Patrick Murphy, of Strategic Marketing Services in Portland, as well as Bowdoin College professor Chris Potholm, who examined the race in his book "This Splendid Game."
Both Potholm and Murphy have said a Cutler comeback could be complicated by the apparent rise of independent candidate Shawn Moody.
"(Moody) has a certain appeal to some voters," Murphy said. "He's very moderate, especially on social issues. And he's a pragmatist. He could be a factor."
Murphy said that Cutler's chances would improve if he can connect with voters on a personal level.
"With King there was this tremendous charisma," he said. "Has Cutler really related to the voters?"
Good question. The answer will be as intriguing as the missing 'e' in Nxt Gov.
LePage on death penalty, Dechaine
GOP gubernatorial hopeful Paul LePage this week made some interesting comments about capital punishment and convicted murderer Dennis Dechaine.
LePage, answering questions about the state's judicial system, said, "On the record, and I'll be very candid, I do think Maine should have the death penalty."
Maine abolished the death penalty in 1887, becoming one of the first states to do so.
LePage wasn't asked about his stance on capital punishment. His view was unsolicited, as were his statements about Dechaine, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in 1988.
LePage was addressing transparency within the state judicial system when he brought up Dechaine.
LePage: "If you suspect you made a mistake, don't be ashamed to reopen (a case) and double-check yourself. There have been several cases in the last couple of decades that the press has written about."
Reporter: "Are you referring specifically to the Dechaine case?"
LePage: "Yes, that's one case I've been hearing about. ... I keep reading that there's doubt, there's doubt, there's doubt. Well, if there's doubt, why don't we go open it up and look at it? Why is the (Attorney General's Office) completely unwilling to go look at it?"
To be clear, LePage said he didn't have knowledge of the case, nor did he proclaim that Dechaine was innocent.
Lights, camera, debate
The gubernatorial candidates — or at least some of them — will participate in several debates and forums this week. But on Saturday, Sept. 25, all five are expected for one of the first high-profile debates since the June primary.
The debate at the University of Maine-Augusta's Jewett Hall will be televised by WGME Channel 13. The hour-long broadcast will begin at 8 p.m.
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