Maine Candidates for Governor Battle it Out Over the Airwaves

Aug 22, 2014

The three major candidates for governor have new television ads on the air with messages as diverse as the candidates themselves. Democratic nominee Mike Michaud is pitching his personal background, while an ad for Republican Gov. Paul LePage emphasizes that his actions are more important than his words. Meanwhile, independent Eliot Cutler released two ads this week, one on job creation and another that called out his opponents for limiting the number of statewide debates.

 

Paid for by the Republican Governor's Association, Gov. Paul LePage's newest ad seems to be crafted to appeal to his base, suggesting that the messenger's style is not as important as the message.

Audio from ad: "Governor LePage is a real person. He's blunt. He's brutally honest. Extremely candid. He's not like anybody else."

"Some people may not like the governor's style," says Republican Party Communications Director David Sorensen. "He's blunt, he's direct, you always know where he stands, but he always gets things done."

At state Republican headquarters, Sorensen says LePage's ad lays out the governor's major policy accomplishments ranging from tougher enforcement of domestic violence laws, to lower taxes and welfare reform.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Mike Michaud's ad gives voters in souther Maine a better look at the 2nd District congressman's blue collar roots.

Audio from ad: "I'm very proud to be a Mainer. I grew up in a small town in Medway. Growing up in a large family, you've got to learn to get along and share. I went to work at the mill right out of high school."

Lizzy Reinholt, Michaud's communications director, says Michaud's background is one that most Mainers can relate to. "We thought it was important to tell that story, because it really speaks to his values, his commitment to bipartisan leadership and bringing people together," Reinholt says, "and those are values that are shared with Mainers."

Independent Eliot Cutler's ad gets right to the point of this year's comparatively small number of debates. He says that strategy ascribed to by both LePage and Michaud deprives Maine voters from seeing a side-by-side comparison of the candidates who would lead the state for the next four years.

Audio from ad: "They want you to vote early before debates. Maine needs debates before you vote. Tell 'em you're going to wait for debates. If they don't have the courage to debate, how will they ever have the courage to lead?"

Cutler's insistence on expanding the number of statewide debates is one that his campaign spokeswoman Crystal Canney says can't be emphasized enough. There are only six debates scheduled with all three major candidates, and Cutler says there were more than 30 four years ago. Thus far, Gov. Paul LePage has refused to commit to an MPBN debate that would be televised statewide, and Michaud says if LePage isn't there, he won't be either.

Canney says Cutler's debate ad is making the most important point to date in this year's election cycle. "The bottom line to this whole debate issue is that you cannot lead the state of Maine if you can't even share your ideas with them," Canney said. "It's very important that if you think you can lead the state of Maine that you are able to communicate with the people and talk about your ideas. And a debate is a robust forum for that."

MaryEllen FitzGerald, of the Portland-based polling group Critical Insights, says the more articulate candidates are, the more they have to gain from a debate where candidates must quickly adapt to an unscripted format. The wrong expression or the inability to effectively respond, she says, can move undecided voters toward a particular candidate. She called Cutler's debate ad "a smart move."

"Obviously Cutler is doing this because he's got some pretty significant, I would assume, polling data that tells him that people really are responding very favorably to the fact that he's asking for a debate and he's not getting the response that he needs or that he wants," FitzGerald says.

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network will air its scheduled gubernatorial debate statewide on October 23 at 8:00 p.m. on MPBN Television and Radio featuring all those candidates who have qualified for a place on the Nov. 4 Maine ballot, and who choose to participate.