A new poll by The Mellman Group indicates 2nd District Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and his Democratic challenger Jared Golden are in a tight race that Golden could win once ranked-choice voting preferences are factored in.
The poll, conducted for Golden’s campaign and reported this morning by Roll Call, determined that in the first round of voting, Poliquin would be ahead with 48 percent of the vote compared to 47 percent for the Lewiston Democrat. The two independents, Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar, would grab the remaining votes between them.
But when the independent votes are redistributed in the second and third round of counting, Golden emerges with a 51-49 victory over Poliquin, the poll determined.
Overall, 16 percent of those polled were undecided, a huge number that could easily swing the outcome sharply one way or another in the months to come even if everyone else remains locked into their current thinking.
The results, compiled after talking to 400 likely voters between July 25 and July 30, have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent, so it’s impossible to say they show much more than the race is close.
“This is the third election cycle where Democrats have released ‘wishful thinking’ polls to skew media coverage and make the race look close. Sadly, reporters keep falling for it,” Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage said in a statement Friday.
He said Golden “is clearly desperate to build credibility for his campaign with help from a friendly media willing to buy his skewed poll.”
The Mellman Group is well-regarded, however, and has several times been named the pollster of the year by the American Association of Political Consultants. Golden’s campaign has worked with Mellman since at least April, when it shelled out $35,600 to the company.
Two of the experts who follow the horse-race aspect of politics — Cook’s Political Report and CNN Politics — have switched their outlook on Poliquin’s race in recent weeks from “leaning Republican” to toss-up status.
The poll, by a polling outfit that typically works with Democrats, found that 42 percent of 2nd District voters view Poliquin favorably while 44 percent see him unfavorably.
Asked about his job performance, 58 percent saw it negatively, the poll found, while 33 percent had a positive view.
Jon Breed, Golden’s campaign manager, said on Twitter, “A 58 percent job disapproval rating is BAD news for Poliquin — I wonder if that’s the reason we’ve suddenly started seeing more of him in the district.”
Poliquin’s campaign consultant, Brent Littlefield, scoffs at nearly every poll, including this one, which he dismissed Friday as ridiculous. He points to polling in 2016 that showed a tight outcome that turned out to be way off as the Republican trounced Democrat Emily Cain in the only New England district that favored President Donald Trump.
“I could set my watch by the number and timing of false Democrat/liberal special interest ‘polls’ on Congressman Bruce Poliquin each election year,” Littlefield said.
Bobby Reynolds, communications director for Golden, said the report “reflects what Jared is seeing on the campaign trail. Jared is hearing about the need to improve access to health care and how important it is to protect Social Security. The support and excitement Jared is seeing from people in the district grows by the day.”
The new poll is the first that’s been made public that shows how ranked-choice voting might play into the results.
Because the new voting system, first used in the primary in June, will be employed in a general election for the first time on Nov. 6 for Maine’s congressional and U.S. Senate races, its impact is one that nobody has experienced before.
The pollsters found that after discarding undecided voters, Poliquin held a 48-47 lead over Golden while Tiffany Bond, a Portland lawyer, had 4 percent and Will Hoar, an educator on Mt. Desert Island, picked up the rest.
Redistributing the last-place Hoar’s votes led to a 48-48 tie between the two frontrunners in the second round of counting.
When Bond’s votes were redistributed in the last round, Golden wound up victorious, according to the poll.
The poll noted that most voters have no opinion of Golden, a former U.S. Marine who serves in the Maine Legislature. It found that 30 percent of voters view him favorably and 10 percent unfavorably.
Millions of dollars are earmarked for the fall campaign by both sides to try to convince voters one way or another before they head to the polls. Poliquin has more money in his campaign coffers than Golden, which usually helps, particularly since candidates can buy television advertising time for much less than outside political action committees that are preparing to go to war in the sprawling district.
Democrat Jared Golden, left, and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin. (Contributed photos)