Survey says . . .

Eliot Cutler

Eliot Cutler

Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler is in trouble.

At least according to the latest All Along the Watchtower survey (and every other poll conducted over the last few months)

Whatever star power the independent from Cape Elizabeth had during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign has all but vanished.

Of the three major candidates, Cutler was the only one to see his support fade (a 40 percent drop) between my two surveys conducted on March 14 and July 24 of this year

Meanwhile, incumbent Republican Paul LePage saw a 19 percent jump in support between the survey period, but Democrat Mike Michaud maintained strong and commanding leads in both surveys, handily winning each with 48 percent in March; and 49.5 percent in July.

As I said previously, this was NOT a scientific poll. It was not restricted to Maine voters, and there are no cross-tabs to analyze. An eight-year-old girl from Toronto could have voted in this survey, so no one should get too wound up about the results . . . except for Eliot Cutler.

Before I proceed, it should also be noted that my latest survey (launched on July 24) had far fewer participants than the earlier survey I conducted in March.

In my March 14 survey, there were 2,411 participants. By contrast, only 122 people participated in my latest survey.

I am not sure how to explain the dramatic drop in participation. It could be that we are in the middle of summer. It could be that people are growing weary of politics and are waiting until Labor Day to get fired up. It could be apathy. It could be a lot of things, but Cutler’s team could have shared this survey widely among their supporters. They could have easily had a small win. 75 votes for Cutler would have resulted in a blog post that “Cutler wins survey.”

gov chart1What would be the value of a minor league blog announcing a Cutler win?

Well, it would be something that Cutler could point to as semi-tangible evidence of his campaign’s viability. It would likely help him more than saying he was asked by the Democrats to be their party’s nominee.

Instead, the results here are just more bad news for a campaign that has yet to have a sun-shiney day during the 2014 cycle.

It’s also further evidence that the Democrats don’t need to worry too much about Cutler, and it’s a bit of bad news for the LePage team that desperately wants Cutler to cut into the Democratic base.

That eight-year-old girl from Toronto probably had no idea about how much power she and her friends could have wielded in the 2014 campaign for the Blaine House.

 

Maine’s next governor. Your choice?

camplogo3On Monday, we will hit the 100-day mark in the countdown to the November 4 election, when Maine voters will choose one of three candidates to be the state’s next governor.

So, for the next four days, I am asking you, your friends, neighbors and co-workers to participate in an online survey about who should be Maine’s next governor.

I will make every effort to limit voting, but I ask that you also exercise some honor. That said, I make no bones about the following: This is NOT a controlled, professional poll and the results should not be construed as such.

This is simply an online self-selected survey — yet another snapshot; a quick glimpse of the electorate’s mood on the eve of what promises to be a rigorous 100 days of fierce campaigning.

Thanks for participating!

 

 

 

 

 

Cold as ice

ECThere are advantages to being independent, but there are also some big disadvantages.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Ted O’Meara, campaign manager for gubernatorial hopeful Eliot Cutler.

In an e-mail to Cutler’s supporters this week, O’Meara praised his team’s hard work and their ability to collect more than 5,000 signatures to ensure that Cutler will be on the November ballot.

But O’Meara also took a swipe at Maine’s political parties, pointing out that campaign rules discourage independent candidates from seeking office.

“Our work was made more challenging by the fact that Independents like Eliot have to collect 4,000 signatures, while the party candidates only have to collect 2,000,” O’Meara wrote. “It’s just the reverse when it comes to fundraising; Eliot can collect only half as much per contributor as the party candidates. 

“That’s right: twice the signatures, half the money. Guess who wrote the rules?”

O’Meara goes on to say that “self-serving election laws are the only thing the parties can agree on these days.”

It should be noted that O’Meara was more than happy to be a member of a major political party in the not-too-distant past.

In fact, O’Meara was once the chair of the Maine Republican Party and served as a staffer for both Senator William Cohen and Senator Olympia Snowe.

But his point about party control of Maine politics is valid.

In fact, members of both major parties ought to seriously ponder why an ever-increasing number of Americans are registered as unenrolled voters.

Being “independent” is gaining traction all across the nation, and that spells big problems for the big parties, especially when it comes to fundraising from a smaller pool of voters.

Although the party faithful generally point out that their candidates must endure the expense of grueling primaries, that’s just not the case this year.

Both Democrat Mike Michuad and Republican Paul LePage are unopposed for their respective party’s nomination.

Regardless of whether you support Cutler, we should level the playing field for all candidates. Let’s be independent together!

 

Smoke on the water

Pot%20leaf_40Attitudes regarding marijuana have dramatically changed during the past two decades.

Those in favor of legalizing the drug are finding increasing support from an expanding constituency, including millenials who can now vote and health care providers who say the drug can benefit their patients.

Even retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens — not a likely Cheech & Chong fan — says it is time for marijuana to be legalized.

In an interview with Scott Simon on National Public Radio, the former justice said: “I really think that that’s another instance of public opinion [that's] changed. And recognize that the distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction.”

Talk about a dramatic shift. In 1987,  after admitting that he once used marijuana, Supreme Court nominee Douglas Ginsburg was forced to back away from the nomination process.

And last year, voters in both Colorado and Washington defied federal law and legalized the use of marijuana as a controlled substance.

But the quest to legalize marijuana in all 50 states face an uphill battle, best evidenced by what has happened in the Maine Legislature.

In November The Legislative Council, a 10-member group of legislative leaders,  split on a proposal that would have sent a statewide referendum question to voters. Because the vote was tied, it failed and cannot be considered again until the next Legislature convenes in 2015.

It was the third time the Legislature has rejected proposals by State Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) to legalize marijuana. Russell could not be reached for comment.

But State Rep. Alan Casavant (D-Biddeford) said he is glad the proposal failed.

“I voted against it every time,” Casavant said.

Casavant, who spent more than 35 years teaching high school, said he experienced first hand the impact of marijuana on his students.

“Legalizing it would be nothing more than a continued erosion of our culture,” he said. “I have heard all the arguments for and against, and I can’t support it.”

Casavant also said the issue should not be debated on a state-by state basis. “For it to happen, we really need some guidance from the federal government. It’s a very complicated issue. Where do you draw the line on intoxication, for example?”

Casavant says he is sympathetic to those who need marijuana for medicinal reasons, but says the risks still outweigh the benefits, even when considering that marijuana could provide a bumper crop of new tax revenue.

“As the mayor of a city, as a legislator, I am very aware of how we need new sources of revenue that will not impact people who are already struggling to keep up, but despite those realities, I can’t support this. Not now.”

State Rep. Justin Chenette (D-Saco) said he is “evolving on the issue.” Chenette said he had initial apprehension about the issue when first approached for his support by Russell.

“Being a college student so recently, I have witnessed the rampant use of marijuana on campus,” Chenette said. “I am concerned about how young people will use it, but I also see the other side. I would be in favor of sending the question to referendum, but I have yet to formulate a strong opinion one way or the other. It’s something that warrants more study.”

Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford is hoping to be a member of the next legislature.

Fecteau, 21, says he generally supports the legalization of marijuana but does not want to see it included in the Maine Democratic Party’s platform because it could be wedge issue in a year when Maine Democrats need to be focused on bigger fish, including capturing the Blaine House.

“I think it should be treated the same as alcohol,” Fecteau said, adding that additional revenue from the state sale of marijuana could provide much-needed tax relief for seniors and revenue that could help fund critical programs.

With a little help from my friends

A few days ago, I posted a simple question on my Facebook page about the legalization of marijuana.

That informal survey drew more than 100 responses in 24 hours.

I was surprised by some of the responses. I was also fascinated to see that an almost even split of Republicans and Democrats were on each side of the issue.

Moreover, both men and women overwhelmingly support legalization (male approval led female approval by only a slight margin).

Women with children were equally split. Among male opponents, more than 75 percent are politically conservative, yet nearly 40 percent of male supporters are conservatives.

Here are a few charts to break it down for you:

weed2

 

women

 

men

 

How not to use social media in a campaign

camplogo3There is a right way to use social media in a campaign.

And there is a wrong way to use social media in a campaign.

The following could be forgiven if it came from a political novice, but not when it comes from the governor’s re-election team.

Here’s a game you can play at home. Find the three glaring strategic mistakes that Team LePage 2014 uses in their recent Facebook post.

https://www.facebook.com/#!/mainesgov/posts/10152803304354676?stream_ref=10

1.) The post urges us to “please search for the LePage 2014 website on your computer.”

Oh, I’m not supposed to search under the table or between the seat cushions?

How about this? How about posting a link to your site? You can do that on Facebook.

Instead, the governor’s social media gurus are worried about unintended “filters” that could accompany an embedded link. So, instead they strongly suggest that you use your computer, hunt down the link and then donate.

In fact, donating must be important because they ask you to donate twice in the same paragraph, which almost looks like one giant sentence, considering the absence of punctuation.

2.) The campaign’s post is horrendously long.

Facebook is not Twitter, which requires abbreviated posts. That said, you should not use Facebook to “cut and paste” an entire speech.

A better strategy would be to hook your social media audience into your website. Use social media to tease your message and direct readers back to your website.

3.) If you must go long, give your post some space.

If you insist on your using Facebook like a blog, at least be considerate and allow readers a visual experience that doesn’t look like a bucket of spilled nails.

Insert a line space between paragraphs. Remember, if you want more people reading your posts, make your posts easier to read.

So here’s a primer for Governor LePage and his re-election team:

If you want to see Governor LePage re-elected go here and donate.

See how easy that was? Social media is supposed to be easy.

I’m not sure who is handling the governor’s social media, but from the looks of things there is plenty of room for improvement.

Primary Colors

empty-pollsAllow me to make a bold prediction.

Voter turnout for Maine’s 2014 Primary Elections on June 10 will be absolutely dismal.

Taxpayers across Maine will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for an absolute non-event; an utter waste of time and resources, all in the name of a Democratic process that doesn’t work without a contest.

In fact, we will be lucky to see voter participation that exceeds the June 1996 state primary, when only 12 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.

Think of it this way, it will be like buying a ticket to watch the Boston Red Sox play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The winners have already been determined.

Unlike the June 2010 Primary four years ago, the gubernatorial candidates for each political party have already been chosen. If only one Democrat goes to the polls somewhere in Maine, Mike Michaud will clinch his party’s nomination in a landslide.

But in 2010, voters of both parties had lots of choices. There were four candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination, and no fewer than seven candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination.

More recently, in 2012, six Republicans and four Democrats fought in the primaries for a chance to fill the shoes of U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe.

This year, Republican Susan Collins has already won her party’s nomination and Shenna Bellows is assured of being the Democratic Party’s sacrificial cow.

But what about the Maine Legislature and the crop of fresh faces ready to head off to Augusta?

Okay, you can stop laughing now.

In fact, you may want to cry because you and all of your neighbors will be funding an entire day of using municipal clerks and voting officials to collect ballots that hardly matter.

Of Maine’s 35 state senate seats, only four will face a primary challenge (three Democratic primaries and one Republican primary)

It’s not much different for the process to fill the 151 chairs in the Maine House of Representatives, where only 19 of the 151 races will see a Primary challenge (8 Democratic primaries and 11 Republican primaries)

In 132 of 151 House Districts in Maine, it doesn’t matter a bit  if you go to the polls on June 10. The races for the Blaine House, the U.S. Senate and the Legislature have been pre-determined.

Please do not disturb the slumber of your municipal clerks or voting officials.

 

 

LePage leads on Facebook; abandons Twitter?

Governor Paul LePage continues to lead his two rivals for the Blaine House on Facebook, picking up 341 new likes for his re-election campaign page over the last 10 days.

But the Governor is still lagging on Twitter, gaining only 11 new followers during the same time period.

In fact, the @LePage2014 Twitter feed has been virtually silent since March 24, when the campaign issued its most recent tweet directed at reporters, saying no one better understands poverty than LePage (referencing his impoverished youth on the streets of Lewiston)

Meanwhile Democratic challenger and Congressman Mike Michaud’s campaign received a nice plug on the Portland Press Herald’s blog, detailing where the candidate would be touring during his two week-Easter break from Congress. Among the highlights: a visit to a micro-brewery and the opportunity to learn how to blow glass at an Ellsworth glass shop.

Michaud will also be opening some campaign offices throughout Maine, according to the Press Herald. No word from the newspaper about the plans of the other two candidates.

Michaud picked up 205 new fans on Facebook and again made the greatest gains on Twitter, adding 61 new followers in the last 10 days.

Michaud now has 11,901 Facebook fans and 1,605 Twitter followers

I’m not alone in tracking the candidates’ social media activity

After boasting about their growing number of Facebook fans, the campaign of Independent candidate Eliot Cutler was called on the carpet by the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Only four days after our latest social media tracking update, the state’s largest newspaper published their own report,  following a rigorous examination of the social media analytics of all three campaigns.

The newspaper’s lead graph:

Eliot Cutler’s campaign trumpeted its popularity on Facebook last week, saying its more than 20,000 “likes” outpace his competitors, Paul LePage and Mike Michaud.

What the independent candidate for governor’s campaign didn’t say was this: It has paid Facebook $16,000 to promote the campaign page . . .”

Our own analysis shows that Cutler’s campaign is trailing both LePage and Michaud on Facebook.

During the last 10 days, Cutler picked up only 170 new fans (Likes) on his campaign Facebook page. Although Cutler has the greatest overall number of Facebook fans, both LePage and Michaud are gaining ground faster.

LePage and Michaud each saw their Facebook fans increase by margins of 4 percent during the last 10 days. Cutler’s Facebook fan base grew by only 1 percent during the same period.

Previously:

April 4, 2014 Update

March 22, 2014 update

 

 

Update: Tracking the Campaigns

camplogo3Governor Paul LePage made the greatest gains on Facebook over the last two weeks, but his Democratic challenger Mike Michaud led the three-man race on Twitter with a 5 percent jump in followers.

As mentioned in my March 20th post, I will be regularly tracking the social media campaigns that are tied to the 2014 Maine gubernatorial election.

Between now and the November election, we will provide updates at least every two weeks, including review of the candidates’ social media pages and web sites.

Team LePage 2014 boasted of their uptick on their Facebook page earlier today.

https://www.facebook.com/#!/mainesgov/posts/10152758748754676?stream_ref=5

https://www.facebook.com/#!/mainesgov/posts/10152756469139676?stream_ref=5

Over the last two weeks, Lepage saw a 3 percent jump in Facebook fans, from 18,438 on March 20 to 19,058 today.

04-04-FacebookIndependent Eliot Cutler still leads the pack with the greatest number of Facebook fans (20,023) but saw only a 1 percent increase during the last two weeks.

It’s worth repeating that Michaud got a much later social media start because both LePage and Cutler hung on to their 2010 social media platforms. Nonetheless, Michaud (@Michaud2014) has overshadowed Cutler (@EliotCutler) on Twitter, making a 5 percent jump, from 1,475 to 1,544 followers.

While Cutler increased his Twitter followers by 4 percent, he still has fewer followers than either LePage or Michaud.

04-04-twitterMeanwhile, over at Team LePage (@LePage2014) Twitter followers increased only 1 percent, yet they seem to be making good use of their Facebook page, pushing fans to their web site and offering direct donation and volunteer mechanisms.

Over at Cutler’s web site, you can read the candidate’s plan for Maine and sign a petition to ensure that Cutler will be involved in all of the gubernatorial debates. I’ll let you be the judge of how well his site works.

See you in two weeks, if not sooner!

Social media and Maine’s gubernatorial campaign

camplogo3Despite all the hoopla about the power of social media tools in political campaigns, what metrics can we use to determine if those tools are effective?

While just about anyone can set up a Twitter account or create a Facebook page, social media tools are only as effective as those who are using them.  Although it is widely accepted that social media tools played a big part in President Obama’s 2008 campaign, that type of success is not guaranteed by simply using social media as part of a campaign strategy.

When it comes to Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial race, which of the campaigns is best using social media? More importantly, how do we set aside our individual biases and evaluate the campaigns based solely upon their social media metrics?

At the Brookings Institute’s Center for Technology Innovation, Darrell West offers a mixed review regarding social media and campaign engagement and the awkward transition to actual governance.

Social media are the ultimate in disruptive technology. They change information delivery, business organization, online content, news coverage, and the manner in which individuals process new developments. As shown during the 2008 campaign, these digital tools represented a textbook example of voter mobilization and electoral impact. They were, in the words of Engage Partner Mindy Finn, the “central nervous system” of campaign organizations.

Using social networking outreach tools such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter, a number of Democratic and Republican candidates raised money, identified supporters, built electoral coalitions, and brought people in closer touch with the electoral process.

You may recall a somewhat silly and lighthearted piece about Maine’s gubernatorial campaigns that I posted a couple of months ago. Then, I jokingly said we should dispense with the standard election process and use social media metrics to determine the winner. I examined each of the campaign’s current metrics.

Twitter FollowersToday, I have decided to track those metrics on a regular basis and to blog frequently about those campaigns and their use of social media.

Over the last 60 days, each of the Maine gubernatorial campaigns has been active on various social media platforms. But before we begin, it’s important to note that Democrat Mike Michaud is the latest entrant to this race. Both Governor LePage and Eliot Cutler carried over their respective social media support from the 2010 campaign.

Nonetheless, Michaud has seen the greatest increase in social media traffic, earning a 21 percent increase in the number of Twitter followers @Michaud2014, moving from 1,219 Twitter followers on January 20 to 1,475 followers as of March 20, 2014.

Although Governor LePage (@lepage2014) has the greatest number of Twitter followers (1,698) his metrics have increased only 8 percent during the same time period.

Eliot Cutler (@EliotCutler) saw a 10 percent increase in Twitter followers, from 1, 153 to 1,269 followers during the same period.

Facebook LikesOn Facebook, Cutler still dominates in the total number of Likes for his campaign page (19,824) but saw only a 4 percent increase over the last 60 days, while both Michaud and LePage experienced increases of 10 percent.

LePage’s Facebook page had 18,438 fans on March 20, compared to 16,791 fans on January 20, 2014.

Michaud’s Facebook page had 11,600 fans on March 20, compared to 10,529 fans on January 20, 2014.

When viewed overall, it would appear that Team Cutler has the steepest hill to climb, so far.

Note: Though it’s generally common knowledge, it must be noted that Twitter followers and Facebook fans do not translate directly to the number of supporters for a political candidate. As an example, I follow all three campaigns on Twitter, but will only be voting for one candidate.

Stand and Deliver

State Sen. Tom Saviello, Kennebec Journal photo

State Sen. Tom Saviello, Kennebec Journal photo

I like Tom Saviello. He is a man after my own heart.

He was a Democrat, then an Independent and now a moderate Republican.

He hails from western Maine, and his state senate district includes my birthplace of Farmington.

My mother’s family has lived in the Farmington-Wilton area for generations. That landscape is known to produce some of Maine’s finest and hardest working people; folks with a keen sense of humor and a clever wit.

In fact, Farmington is the birthplace of Chester Greenwood, the man who invented earmuffs.

In western Maine, common sense is a prerequisite for survival, and Saviello has loads of common sense.

He is pragmatic, personable and about as decent a man as you could hope to find. Sounds like a great guy, right?

Wrong, at least for some who prefer to sit on the lunatic edge of the Republican Party.

You see, Tom Saviello is the worst of the worst simply because he is a moderate. Christ, he was once a Democrat. How can you trust such a guy?

If you’re a Republican you had better take an oath to the Tea Party and its fundamentalist agenda if you want to get elected or even re-elected.

You can see such a dynamic playing out on the national stage, where Republicans such as John Boehner or Mitch McConnell are being taken to task by swaths of people who believe that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, there is no such thing as climate change, and that all immigrants should be deported because there is a high probability that they will vote for Democrats if given the chance.

Now, I don’t know where Saviello stands on climate change or immigration reform. Heck, he may or may not believe that President Obama is the anti-Christ. But I do know this: He is not Republican enough for the Tea Party.

History repeats itself

It was only two years ago when Maine Republicans shot themselves in the foot, giving up a U.S. Senate seat by applauding a hard-right primary challenge to U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe.

Snowe’s crime? She served on the Senate Finance Committee and voted in favor of sending the Affordable Care Act to the Senate floor for further debate and promised tweaks.

Ultimately, Snowe stood shoulder to shoulder with every other Republican and voted against passage of Obamacare, but the damage had been done. Suddenly she was facing a three-way primary, including two candidates who said she was not conservative enough.

I spoke on behalf of Snowe at Biddeford’s 2012 Republican caucus (Yes, there is such a thing).

I heard and felt the jeers from the crowd. (Yes, there was a crowd)

Only days later, Snowe abruptly announced that she would not seek another term to complement her distinguished political career. She was done. She blamed partisan gridlock in Washington, but a lot of us didn’t buy her rationale. I was angry that she was leaving. The Republican Party was about to endure two painful losses. 1.) the loss of a great and principled stateswoman who represented her party well, and 2.) a much needed seat in the U.S. Senate.

Snowe’s seat was taken by Democrat . . .errIndependent Angus King.

Now two years later, this same dynamic is playing out at the legislative level.

Earlier this month, John Frary, a retired college professor and right-wing darling, announced that he would challenge Saviello in the District 18 Republican Primary.

Saviello was obviously frustrated by that announcement, and threatened to walk away from the GOP if any other member of his party had the temerity to challenge him, according to political pundit Ethan Strimling in his Agree to Disagree blog at the Bangor Daily News.

Strimling goes on to speculate that hard-right Republicans are angry with Saviello’s moderate track record. He actually voted to override several of Republican Governor Paul LePage’s vetoes and voted to expand Medicaid.

Strimling ends his analysis this way: “. . . it [the potential challenge of Saviello] is clearly reflective of an increasingly intolerant Republican Party.”

First, you need to take Strimling with a grain of salt. He is a partisan Democrat. It his mission (second to looking good on television) to make his own party look good and Republicans look like “knuckle draggers.”

Secondly, it remains a bit unclear whether Frary, a man who routinely amuses himself with his own wit, will actually enter the race in an attempt to unseat Saviello.

But the following points should be clear:

If Saviello walks away from his party simply because he is being challenged, let me be the first to show him the door. There is no need to act like a petulant two-year-old, especially after you have spent a lifetime building a strong track record of public service and strong character. You need to stand up to bullies, not walk away.

Despite his partisan credentials, Ethan Strimling is on point when he says the GOP is in trouble if it can’t afford some flexibility in its own ranks. Democrats were not crazy about Mike Michaud’s pro-life stance, but they didn’t primary him. Instead, they waited for him to eventually change his position.

The GOP used to be a big tent party, but it seems increasingly unwilling to lease space to anyone who dares challenge an increasingly bizarre list of ideological demands foisted upon the platform by the Tea Party.

It well past time for common-sense Republicans to stand up and take their party back. Otherwise what we saw happen with Snowe’s seat will become more of a trend.

And to my Republican friends, how’s Angus King working out for you?