On Eliot Cutler's Independent Candidacy for Governor of Maine

My most recent piece at CAIVN is on the Maine gubernatorial race and focuses on the prospects of Eliot Cutler's independent candidacy following the Democratic and Republican primaries earlier this month:

The Maine gubernatorial race took its final shape last week following the Democratic and Republican party primaries. With the nominations of Democrat Libby Mitchell and Republican Paul LePage, Maine voters will choose from a field of at least five candidates for governor. In addition to Eliot Cutler, there are two more Independent candidates for the office who qualified for ballot access by petition: Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott.

However, among the Independent candidates, the Cutler campaign is widely viewed to have the best chance of giving the Democrat and Republican a run for their money. Indeed, as of February, Cutler had raised more money than both Libby Mitchell and Paul LePage, according to a report at the Augusta Insider.

Strategically, the nominations of Mitchell and LePage are said to bode well for Cutler, who is running on a moderate centrist platform. One commentator at the Portland Press Herald has suggested that the Democrats and Republicans have nominated "fringe candidates" who are "not up to the challenges ahead." At Pine Tree Politics, Clark Phinney agrees, writing, "LePage has the far right lane and Mitchell has the far left lane. That leaves the middle lanes wide open for Cutler to travel through, and, if he plays his cards right, cruise to victory."

Cutler also has recent history and current partisan trends on his side. Two of Maine's last five governors were Independents, and 37% of Maine voters identify themselves as Independents, outnumbering Democrats and Republicans by a comfortable margin (32% and 27% respectively).

However, in one of the few polls measuring public opinion in this race, Rasmussen found 7% support for Cutler, with 46% stating they were "not sure" about their impression of the Independent candidate. This may change relatively quickly as the Cutler camp appears to be preparing an aggressive media campaign, having released a major television spot just days after the primary election.

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