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New Maine Poll: King the Favorite in U.S. Senate Race
04/06/2012   Reported By: Barbara Cariddi

An early poll of Maine's candidates for federal office shows voters are largely undecided in the hotly-contested primary races for U.S. Senate. But if you stack up a Democrat and a Republican against former independent Gov. Angus King, he's the heavy favorite. The poll also tracks voters' approval of President Obama, Gov. Paul LePage and support for same-sex marriage.

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New Maine Poll: King the Favorite in U.S. Senate Listen
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The poll of 993 registered Maine voters likely to vote in the upcoming primaries has a margin of error of about three percent. Conducted over three days by the Maine Peoples' Resource Center, which bills itself as non-partisan, the poll is an early snapshot of how voters are feeling about candidates.

And right now, not surprisingly, most voters are going with who they know best: In the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts, that's Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud. In the four-and-six-way Democratic and Republican primaries for U.S. Senate, voters' top choice is--"undecided."

"There's a lot of room for improvement," says Mike Tipping, the communications director for the Maine Peoples' Resource Center. "The key take-away from this poll is that this is a very early look at all these races."

In the Republican U.S. Senate primary, "undecideds" have nearly 40 percent of the vote. After that, Secretary of State Charlie Summers leads the six-way candidate race with 27 percent, followed by state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, with 12 percent.

In the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, "undecideds" represent nearly 55 percent of the vote, with State Sen. Cynthia Dill capturing 20 percent and former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap virtually tied, at nearly 17 percent.

Dill says she is pleased with the results, given that she entered the race well after Dunlap did, and has only just begun her campaign. "I'm definitely encouraged by this. However I recognize that it's very early, that certainly there's a lot of people that we need to reach, and obviously there's the factor of independent candidates who right now are polling better than we are."

The independent with the most appeal is former Gov. King. An earlier poll gave him a narrow lead in a three-way Senate race. This one gives him 56 percent of the vote if he runs against Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Matt Dunlap.

But as Mike Tipping points out, holding that kind of lead will get tougher as other candidates become better known. "So much of a campaign is about momentum. So if you're up now it's a lot easier to go down than if you're well known and your opponents are not."

In the presidential race in Maine, voters are still largely in favor of Democrat Barack Obama. He won with more than 57 percent of the vote in 2008. The poll gives him more than 54 percent against Republican Mitt Romney, with 37 percent. The number of undecideds in that contest stands at 8.5 percent.

But Maine Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster expects those numbers to shift dramatically. "I'm willing to predict that Romney will win Maine," he says. "I believe that very strongly. The 2nd District has changed, and Maine's sick of the welfare state and the Democrats and Obama just continue it. I think people are ready to try something different."

Maine voters aren't showing strong support for Republican Gov. Paul LePage. His approval rating has dropped from 44 percent in November of last year to just under 38 percent in the latest poll. And his disapproval rating, at 56 percent, has never been higher, with about 5 percent of voters not sure how to rate the governor's performance.

University of Maine political science professor Amy Fried says the approval rating shows he's not gaining traction with voters.
"He is not building on the percentage of the electorate that selected him as governor."

Respondants were also surveyed about their attitudes toward same-sex marriage. Mirroring a trend nationwide, the poll shows Maine voters approve of it by about 58 percent. Polls showed that a majority of Mainers approved of same sex marriage back in 2009 too--but that same year voters opted to repeal a same-sex marriage law by a margin of 53-to-47 percent.

This story was reported and written by Susan Sharon.



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