New Maine poll offers good news for Trump, Poliquin

Good morning from Augusta, where a new Colby College/Boston Globe poll has again raised the prospect of Donald Trump winning in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and taking one of our coveted electoral votes.

Maine, one of two states that splits electoral votes by congressional district — giving one each to district-level winners and two to the statewide winner — has never seen its congressional districts split in a presidential election. But it’s looking more and more possible this year.

Statewide, Hillary Clinton bested Trump in the poll, but only barely: 42 percent to 39 percent. In the more conservative 2nd Congressional District, which includes central, northern and coastal Maine, Trump leads Clinton by a full 10 percentage points.

For comparison’s sake, Clinton is running about 12 points weaker in Maine than Barack Obama did in 2012. The presidential race hasn’t been this close in Maine since Democrat Al Gore won the state by 5 percentage points in 2000.

The poll, conducted by research firm SurveyUSA, interviewed 1,000 adults from Maine from Sept. 4-10. Of the respondents, 779 were determined to be registered voters likely to vote this year.

This survey’s results were similar, but more dramatic than those released last week by Emerson College, finding Clinton up by nine points statewide and Trump up by just over four points in the 2nd District.

The poll showed Maine’s congressional incumbents in the lead, giving us the first public numbers that we’ve seen so far in the pivotal, nationally targeted race in the 2nd District between Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Emily Cain.

Poliquin led Cain with 50 percent to her 45 percent, and in the 1st Congressional District, heavily favored incumbent Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree led Republican challenger Mark Holbrook by 20 points.

It’s notable that both candidates are outperforming their parties’ nominees, who Cain and Poliquin have taken different tacks in embracing. Cain has backed Clinton going back to the presidential nominee’s 2008 primary with Barack Obama, while Poliquin has largely refused to even discuss Trump this cycle.

But if Trump indeed has this kind of lead in the 2nd District, it may hinder Cain’s ability to gain footing against Poliquin, who has out-raised her in a campaign sure to break the spending record for Maine House races that the two set in 2014.

If that happened, it could be Trump’s greatest impact on Maine politics. Trump’s support in Maine comes largely because it’s like other states he’s playing well in: It’s heavily white, old and rural. That illustrates some of the wider demographic challenges he has against Clinton, and it’s not hard to envision an electoral map in which he is beaten easily by Clinton while flipping the 2nd District red.

In other miscellany, a majority of respondents said they have no confidence in Gov. Paul LePage’s ability to govern. However, 40 percent of Mainers, including 85 percent of Republicans, said they are confident in LePage. Sixty-four percent said the level of civility in Maine politics has deteriorated since LePage took office in 2010.

Approval ratings for Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus king were both above 60 percent and a 59 percent majority of respondents said they supported President Barack Obama’s designation of land in the Katahdin region as a national monument. — Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd

In case you still doubt Susan Collins is popular

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has another award for her shelf: the Jacob K. Javits Prize for Bipartisan Leadership. The lifetime achievement award is in recognition of Collins’ efforts to break partisan gridlock.

She is the first recipient of the award, which is named after the late Republican U.S. senator from New York. Javits’ children wrote an article for The Hill describing why Collins received the award.

Tuesday was a good day for Maine’s senior senator. In addition to announcing the Javits award, given over the weekend, Collins was again named the second most popular U.S. senator by Morning Consult.

Collins had an approval rating of 69 percent, according to a survey by Morning Consult, ranking her behind only Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in national popularity.

She registered at 79 percent in the group’s last survey in April, but Collins wasn’t alone in that drop, since September approval numbers were lower for most senators at the top of the list.

Maine’s junior senator, independent Angus King, who was fourth in approval in April, fell just outside of the top 10 this time at 63 percent. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Poliquin ‘no’ on Dodd-Frank bill: The House Financial Services committee on Tuesday approved a sweeping amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act, a set of new regulations for banks and financial institutions that were adopted under the Obama administration in 2010. According to Morning Consult, the bill would relax a number of provisions in the original Dodd-Frank Act. It passed with Republican support, though Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin voted against it. Poliquin declined to answer questions from Morning Consult and the Bangor Daily News about why. Cain, his challenger in this year’s election, said his vote was a misleading election-year stunt.
  • Telling Mainers how to live’: The National Rifle Association has launched a new television advertisement in Maine against Question 3 on the November ballot, which would require background checks for private gun sales. The ad is already being panned for using an image of San Francisco’s skyline where New York’s should be and using an inaccurate map of Maine for the second time. That Maine accent isn’t very good either, if you ask me.  — Christopher Cousins

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Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.