Lance Dutson: The last week has brought some pretty good polling news for Congressman Bruce Poliquin’s reelection bid. A Colby College/Boston Globe poll showed Bruce ahead of Emily Cain 50-45. In a presidential election year, with all the negativity Emily’s team has thrown at Bruce for the last three years, this is a pretty solid position for him. Between Bruce’s strong campaign and the surge of Trump support in District 2, Democrats must be really depressed about their continued woes outside of Portland.
Steven Biel: I think it’s possible that Bruce has a slight lead. He spent big before Labor Day on a 60-second ad that’s been on the air since Aug. 1 with virtually no pushback. He’s also blanketed every voter in the district with taxpayer-funded mail. But that spending will only pump his numbers temporarily. Now voters are paying more attention, and Emily is on TV, too. This race will go down to the wire.
Lance: It’s one thing to match spending, but Emily’s problem is her message stinks. Her entire platform seems to be based on the fact that she’s “not Bruce.” Between emails from her dog and the generic D.C.-based party-line messaging, there’s really no “there” there. Meanwhile Bruce is doing a great job with constituent service and focusing on issues voters actually care about, like jobs.
Steven: Emily’s message — and more importantly her track record — is that at a time when D.C. is frozen in gridlock, we need someone who can get things done across the aisle. Bruce has been a loyal foot soldier in the Republican army of obstruction, while Emily got things done in Augusta.
Lance: Watching the campaigns is a good way to get a good feel for what the state of the race is. And if you look at what the Cain campaign is doing right now, things look pretty desperate. Emily is actually running a TV ad right now with Paul LePage … as a POSITIVE. She’s spending precious campaign funds to make District 2 voters think she is close with Paul LePage. If that isn’t desperation, I don’t know what is.
Steven: Maine has a long history of rewarding politicians who can work in a bipartisan way — not least your old boss Susan Collins. And the truth is that she did a better job working with Gov. LePage than a lot of Republicans do, passing the budget on time and never breaking off communication like Mike Thibodeau did. What’s desperate is Bruce’s absurd attack on Emily’s fundraising. He shattered records for Wall Street fundraising and rewarded his patrons with votes against financial industry oversight. Now he wants to convince voters that Emily Cain is the candidate of the big banks? Voters aren’t that stupid.
Lance: It’s called playing a bad issue to a tie. Bruce doesn’t need to make Emily look like a Wall Street candidate — he just has to mitigate her potential attack point by showing that she trolls the money gutter just like everyone else. It’s smart politics.
Steven: You Republicans are something else. Your Supreme Court justices eviscerate campaign finance laws and then you blame Democrats for competing under the rotten rules you created. How about if Bruce joined Emily in opposing the awful Citizens United decision?
Lance: When a campaign starts talking about donations, it’s a sign they’re either trapped in a tunnel or desperate for an issue. You know as well as I do that people don’t give a fig about campaign finance. District 2 voters care about jobs, the economy, and their families’ health and well-being. I’m sure Bruce relishes every day Emily spends worrying about Wall Street, because that’s another day she drifts further away from the issues voters actually care about.
Steven: Agreed — which is why we know Bruce is nervous. He’s lobbing laughable attacks on Emily’s fundraising. She’s talking about her track record working across the aisle making government work for everyday Mainers. Come Nov. 8, that’s the argument I think will win the day. And if it doesn’t, it’ll be just another victory for political gridlock and big money, which no one should celebrate.