Submitted by Mike Tipping on Mon, 08/18/2008 - 12:02pm.
As Labor Day approaches, political campaigns in Maine shift into high gear, and will run hard straight through until the election in November. Now is a good time to take stock of what will likely be Maine's most contentious election this year, the US Senate race between Incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins and Democratic 1st District Congressman Tom Allen. The Horse RaceThis week, Rasmussen released a new poll, which shows numbers that are virtually unchanged from their first survey of the race nearly four months ago. In fact, all of Allen's numbers have remained within the margin of error for that first poll, which points to a lack of momentum and a rather stagnant race. The Allen campaign will have to work hard to improve these head-to-head numbers over the next few weeks to have a shot in November. New voters registrations and a get-out-the-vote effort alone can't erase a 15-point gap between the candidates.
The MoneyCollins had raised over $6 million through the last reporting deadline, and had more than $5 million cash on hand. Allen had raised more than $4.5 million and had more than $3 million on hand. While Collins has the edge here, both candidates should have enough to blanket the Maine airwaves through to election day. Other groups will be driving up the spending total on this race as well. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to spend $5 million in advertising alone, and independent groups funded by corporations are already on the air for Collins. The AdsCollins launched the first candidate-sponsored television ads of the campaign on July 23rd with the release of two similar ads touting her accomplishments in Washington. She has followed them up with an ad on energy and one on her sponsorship of legislation that increased funding for AEDs. Allen joined the ad war on August 10th with an eye-catching ad titled Change which highlights a variety of progressive issues. Outside groups have run ads as well. MoveOn.org ran ads against Collins early in the race, which she turned into a fundraising opportunity. Lately, the Maine airwaves have been saturated with ads funded by corporate interests who oppose Allen for his support of the Employee Free Choice Act. DebatesAllen recently challenged Collins to a series of town hall forums in August, which she refused, citing a lack of public interest during the summer. The campaigns are currently working to schedule debates for September and October. Policy Allen may have developed more policy papers, plans, and proposed legislation than any other candidate running for the US Senate this year, and specific policy proposals seem to be a centerpiece of his campaign. His most recent include pronouncements on issues such as energy, the economy, and universal health care. The campaign has announced parts of these proposals all over the state in order to gain media coverage during the summer. Instead of proposing new Policy, Collins has focused mainly on her legislative accomplishments. The Ground Game The grassroots is the only area where Allen has an undisputed edge in this race. The Democratic Party has 29 offices open across the state, with more opening every week, and has a dedicated and energized volunteer base, due in part to the excitement caused by Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The Republican Party has just four offices and many fewer volunteers. The democrats are working on registering thousands of new voters and making sure they get to the polls, an effort that could shift the political landscape in the Senate race. However, with less competitive races in Maine for president and for the other congressional seats, which democrats will likely win, Maine's ticket-splitting voters may choose to make Collins the one Republican they support. In the latest poll, 29% of Democratic voters abandoned Allen. Hoffman It appeared at first that the race would be complicated by the independent candidacy of Herb Hoffman, who it was thought might take votes from Allen's liberal base. A recent court ruling took Hoffman off the ballot and likely ended his candidacy. ConclusionTom Allen has an uphill climb. He has to run a perfect campaign from here on out, hope for Collins to make some mistakes, and rely on outside expenditures to make up for her cash advantage. His campaign hasn't yet found the issues or the tone that will allow him to get close enough for his organizational advantage to make a difference, and time is running out. In other Maine political news: WGME investigates the EFCA ads. The Times Record calls them a new low for political advertising in Maine. Governor Baldacci submits an energy plan, Republicans in the legislature still want a special session. The Bangor Daily News goes in search of the real GOP. Maine GOP chair Mark Ellis claims Obama has taken more money from oil company execs, an assertion no one has called him on yet. Rebecca Wyke declines her nomination to head FAME, instead taking a job overseeing the finances of the UMaine system. Ryan Low wins bipartisan backing to take over the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, or maybe not. David Offer gets polled. A task force will consider consolidations between Maine's natural resource agencies. Herb Hoffman continues to tilt at windmills. The state employees union is asking members to take unpaid leaves to work on political campaigns. District 93 candidate Bill Hine feels persecuted by the Maine Ethics Commission. The Blaine House turns 175. Senator Collins gossips about Edwards' affair, garnering more coverage than is likely warranted. Baldacci proposes an income tax cut. The Sun Journal thinks he's hiding something. Former Senate candidate Eric Mehnert becomes chief judge for the Penobscots. The Bangor Daily News finishes its excellent five-part series on welfare in Maine. Nader will likely be on the ballot in Maine. Bangor and the Red Cross host a joint voter registration/blood drive.
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