July 11, 2012

Poll: Maine still in Obama's camp

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND -- Maine voters are sticking by President Barack Obama -- so far, at least -- despite deep concern about the lagging economy, according to a Portland Press Herald poll.

A statewide sampling of Maine voters shows they favor Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, 49 percent to 35 percent, with four months left in the intensifying presidential campaign.

Nationally, Obama and Romney are in a dead heat at 47 percent each, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday.

Mainers say they continue to struggle economically just like other Americans, and that disappointment has subdued the enthusiasm of some who supported Obama in 2008. However, Romney has yet to turn the issue against Obama and connect with voters in Maine the way he has in other states, the poll suggests.

Former Maine Gov. Angus King, meanwhile, holds a substantial lead over his Republican and Democratic rivals in the race for Maine's open U.S. Senate seat.

Fifty-five percent of those polled said they support King, more than double the support for the closest candidate, Republican Charlie Summers. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they favor Summers and 7 percent said they favor Democrat Cynthia Dill.

King, running as an independent, is drawing support from members of both parties, especially Democrats. Sixty-seven percent of the Democrats who were polled said they support King, while 17 percent said they support Dill, the party's nominee.

Maine's two U.S. representatives, both Democrats, lead in their bids for re-election Nov. 6, according to the poll.

Rep. Chellie Pingree is especially strong in the 1st Congressional District, leading Republican Jon Courtney 57 percent to 31 percent among those polled in southern and coastal Maine.

Rep. Mike Michaud leads Republican Kevin Raye 47 percent to 35 percent in Maine's 2nd District, where a relatively large bloc of voters said they are undecided.

The poll, conducted by Portland-based Critical Insights in late June, provides a snapshot of voter opinion in Maine at the start of the four-month general election campaigns. Poll numbers still reflect name recognition to some degree, and there is plenty of time and campaigning left for candidates to rise and fall, experts say.

A close look at the results shows where candidates are strong and where they face challenges. It also reveals that Maine voters are following national trends in some ways, and breaking away in others.

Here is a deeper look at each race:

President

The poll results suggest two big reasons for Obama's lead in Maine so far: Many Mainers are not blaming him for the continuing economic problems, and they have not warmed up to Mitt Romney.

The strain of a lagging economy three years into Obama's presidency is clearly swaying some voters here.

Greg Hatt, 56, a carpenter who's a registered Democrat from Camden, said he voted for Obama in 2008 but is leaning against voting for him again in November.

"I think he's let the country down by focusing so much on this health care thing," Hatt said. "He should have been really pushing the economy."

Overall, however, Mainers clearly appear to be more forgiving than most other Americans.

Obama's 48 percent approval rating in Maine is about the same as his rating nationally. But his disapproval rating is 40 percent in Maine and 48 percent nationally.

Jason Bermudez, a 40-year-old legal receptionist who is a registered Democrat, said he still has faith in the president.

"I think he was handed a big mess, and to think that he could have wrapped it all up in four years is a little naive," said Bermudez, who lives in Portland. "I think that he's a great man and I don't think we've seen the best he can do yet."

(Continued on page 2)

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