The Republican Governors Association (RGA), just a week before Election Day, is pulling out the final stops in its push to re-elect Gov. Paul LePage. The RGA’s most recent strategy: boosting the image of Independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who could siphon votes from Maine’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
The RGA on Tuesday released on ad, claiming that Democratic candidate Mike Michaud, a U.S. Representative for Maine, aims to use tax dollars to fund welfare benefits for illegal immigrants, among other policies the ad trumpets as wrongheaded.
What’s interesting to observers about the RGA ad is that it never mentions incumbent Gov. LePage, instead shining a positive light on third-party candidate Cutler.
“In the state legislature, Michaud voted to create a new tax on Social Security,” the ad says. “It was such a bad idea that then-governor Angus King vetoed it. No wonder independent King now endorses Eliot Cutler. And Michaud still doesn’t get it.”
“What LePage is worried about is the fact that Michaud is gaining support and taking votes from Cutler. They knew their only pathway to victory in this race was to split the vote for anti-LePage,” Lizzy Reinholt, communications director for Michaud’s campaign, said in an interview with Rewire. “It’s clear now that they’re panicking and desperate.”
A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that Michaud and LePage are tied, each with 40 percent of the vote, with Cutler trailing at 17 percent. The same poll found that Michaud is the second choice for the 17 percent of voters who currently favor Cutler, leaving Republicans worried that some moderates might decide to cast their vote for the Democrat by next week.
LePage and other Republicans have not hidden the fact that they plan on using Cutler to split the Democratic vote.
LePage recently called Cutler’s candidacy “an early Christmas” for his re-election bid. And major GOP donors have given to political action committees supporting Cutler, including a conservative couple from Kansas that recently donated $50,000.
Cutler, for his part, isn’t helping the situation for Republicans.
At a press conference today, Cutler said that he understands if voters don’t want to cast their ballots for him next week. “I don’t think any voter, whether a supporter of mine or not, now needs or ever has needed my permission or my blessing to vote for one of my opponents,” he told reporters. “Anyone who has supported me but who now worries that I cannot win and is thereby compelled by their fears or by their conscience to vote instead for Mr. LePage or Mr. Michaud should do so.”
Reinholt said Michaud isn’t too worried about the recent attack ads, which he says misrepresent his positions.
“He’s confident that voters won’t be fooled by [the ads]. Voters aren’t going to be fooled into thinking Congressman Michaud isn’t the best candidate to beat LePage.”