The latest poll shows Republican political newcomer Jason Levesque of Auburn behind U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, but Levesque has made progress.
The Critical Insights poll for MaineToday Media released Wednesday shows Michaud with 44 percent; Levesque with 32 percent; and undecided, 24 percent.
For Levesque, that's an improvement from a Sept. 9 poll that had him trailing 20 points behind Michaud.
The numbers show “people realize Mike Michaud is not representing their needs, their values, and he's not representing their wishes,” Levesque said Friday during a trip to Bangor.
Michaud campaign spokesman Greg Olson said Friday their internal polling shows higher numbers, that Michaud has “a significant lead. But we're not taking anything for granted.”
So far, the campaign has been under the radar. That's about to change.
Both sides plan to start television advertising in this area next week.
On Monday, Levesque will appear at the Woodlands Club in Falmouth for a reception where he'll be backed by former Gov. John McKernan, former Sen. Phil Harriman and other Republicans.
Levesque, an Auburn businessman, grew up in Auburn and Poland, graduated from Edward Little in 1992, and is an Army veteran.
Michaud, of Aroostook County, is a former paper mill worker, a state legislator, and was first elected to Congress in 2002. In the last election he was re-elected with 67 percent of the vote.
Both Levesque and Michaud cite creating jobs and improving the economy as top priorities.
Michaud said fiscal responsibility is another priority, which is why he voted against bailing out Wall Street. He also worked to increase tariffs on paper from China that put Maine paper mills at a disadvantage. Michaud intends to focus on improving the tone in Washington, saying it's too partisan, Olson said.
Levesque said he'd vote to get rid of President Obama's health care reform and allow businesses to buy health coverage out of state and from larger pools. Maine's 2nd Congressional District needs to become more business friendly with streamlined regulation, Levesque said.
With the election getting closer and ads on television, voters will start to focus on the race, and the number of undecided voters will diminish, said Marvin Druker, professor of public affairs at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn College.
Michaud's campaign would like to see his polling numbers in the 50s, but this is not the best year to be an incumbent, Druker said. It is the year of an anti-incumbent feeling, the year of the upset voter, he said.
The actual number of people who belong to the tea party isn't that large, Druker said, “but there are lots of others who identify with being upset.”
Typically congressional incumbents are re-elected 90 to 95 percent of the time, he said. Most incumbents may be re-elected, but this year they won't enjoy that high success, he predicted.
In the four weeks left of the campaign, Michaud's task will be to assure voters what he's been doing is in their best interest, Druker said.
Levesque's task will also be to convince voters he'll do what's in their best interest, and that he's not just somebody who has not been there, Druker said.