Ethan: As I am sure you saw, a very interesting poll was released this week. It has Gov. Paul LePage widening his lead over the field for governor. It puts President Barack Obama’s approval rating below 50 percent. It shows that people are liking LePage’s policies, if not his governing style. It clarifies (again!) that Mainers are strongly in favor of background checks, magazine size limits and a ban on assault weapons. And finally it brought us a dark horse name in the possible field of gubernatorial candidates in 2014. Shall we begin with the parts that make your side giddy or mine?
Phil: How about we start with the seemingly instantaneous release of a poll by the state Democrat Party dispelling Pan Atlantic’s numbers on the governor’s race? Dueling polls create confusion and doubt. Was that the mission of your operatives? And what are the chances your party is going to acquiesce to the self-proclaimed independent Eliot Cutler?
Ethan: Definitely not going to acquiesce to Cutler (unless he comes back home to the Democratic Party!), and I don’t think party folks were looking to create confusion. As you know, with the margins of error, polls can vary. But, regardless of the internal Democratic poll, I imagine your troops were feeling pretty good about LePage’s numbers in the public poll?
Phil: Sixty-four percent of Mainers agree with LePage on the message. Not so many on the messenger, to put it diplomatically. Imagine if he worked as hard on his delivery as he does on his agenda? He would win in a landslide, don’t you think?
Ethan: No doubt. And if we Democrats don’t find a better way to articulate how his policies are hurting Maine people, I think he’ll win easily. Here’s the slogan, “Hey, I may not be the most polished guy around, but at least I am getting the job done!”
Phil: True. So let’s get your take on why Obama’s approval has dropped so noticeably?
Ethan: Honestly, this is the one result that puzzles me. As recently as three months ago, Obama was at 54 percent, and the internal poll had him at 53 percent just last week. Both are probably too high, but the Pan Atlantic poll has him at 44 percent. The only thing I could think of is that people are upset with the sequestration cuts affecting Maine. The possible job losses at Portsmouth. The closing of Acadia National Park for a month. The cuts are hurting and scary, and even though he doesn’t deserve the blame, I am sure he is suffering because of it. But not a 10-point drop.
Phil: That makes sense to me, too, except the hurting analysis. Geez, we’re $17 trillion in debt (and growing by $3 billon a day), and the Obama-originated sequester is only trimming pennies. Imagine how our children are going to hurt when they have to pay the tab? Where is the leader to guide us to fiscal security? Enough about that, what did you take from the gun questions?
Ethan: Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins had better take notice. Clearly a majority of Mainers support an assault weapons ban, a limit on magazine capacity, and background checks. These each hold majorities by 20, 30 and 80 points respectively! Go against those kind of numbers at your own peril.
Phil: Whoa, don’t go off half cocked. (Forgive me, I couldn’t resist.) First, assault is a behavior, not a device. Just because a rifle has grip and an adjustable stock doesn’t mean it’s any different than your grandfather’s Winchester. And how do you implement a background check when grandpa gives you his grandfather’s rifle?
Ethan: I daresay, I think the people of Maine know the difference between your grandfather’s Winchester and the Bushmaster XM15-E2S that Adam Lanza used to massacre 20 six year olds. Are you saying Collins and King should simply ignore the will of the people?
Phil: The will of the people is that the mentally ill and criminals shouldn’t have guns, yet nothing is proposed, nor existing laws fully enforced. Passing laws that make us feel good that at least something has been done isn’t security. Tell us what you thought of the results of keeping concealed weapon permits confidential? Pan Atlantic showed people oppose taking away the public’s right to know by a margin of 49 percent to 46 percent. Certainly proves that we were right when we said they were overreacting, doesn’t it?
Ethan: Indeed. It proves that there was no emergency or groundswell forcing them to cast aside all common sense as they eliminated the public’s right to know. They got scared by a very vocal minority and buckled under pressure. It also makes it clear that the Legislature went against what the people of Maine want.
Phil: Well, based upon the recent unfortunate committee vote, it is not looking good.
Ethan: Indeed. Last issue from the poll. What do you make of the fact that former Democratic Maine Sen. Bill Diamond handily won a Democratic primary for governor (assuming Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud and former Gov. John Baldacci don’t run). Surprised? Scared if he runs?
Phil: Good guy to be sure. Next governor? Look, Michaud and Baldacci weren’t even able to get out of third place in the poll. As good of a guy as Diamond is, until he out-polls the undecided, I think any emotion is premature. That said, he is probably your best alternative if the top three opt out.
Ethan: I agree that he is probably the best alternative, and also that he will have much work to do to truly be considered a threat to Cutler or LePage.
Phil: Any final thoughts on the poll?
Ethan: Well, as you often like to say, “the people have spoken.” Let’s see if the leaders are listening.