First poll CD2: It’s Baldacci by a nose over Cain, Mills a close third

In the first poll I have seen regarding the Second Congressional District Democratic primary, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci, state Sen. Emily Cain and Attorney General Janet Mills appear to be in the lead pack. Sen. Troy Jackson and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap are in the middle, with Rep. Jeff McCabe a distant sixth. The poll was administered by Public Policy Polling (PPP) and conducted from June 26-27. It included 633 “usual Democratic primary voters” with a margin of error of 3.9 percent. The numbers are:

  • Joe Baldacci:          19 percent
  • Emily Cain:             18 percent
  • Janet Mills:             15 percent
  • Troy Jackson:           9 percent
  • Matt Dunlap:             8 percent
  • Jeff McCabe:            3 percent
  • Not sure:                 28 percent

I suppose it is not a surprise that Baldacci, Cain and Mills are basically neck and neck. Joe Baldacci has former Gov. John Baldacci’s last name (he’s his brother) and has been active in Bangor civic life for a long time, most recently having been elected to the Bangor City Council. Cain was the House Democratic leader before she moved to the Senate and was active in opposing much of LePage’s agenda, while trying to build compromise. Plus, she is the only candidate in the pack to have actually declared. And Mills is our past and present attorney general, having also been very active in helping Democrats regain majorities in the Legislature. In short, all three are well-known in Democratic circles and among the base of the party.

Jackson, a relative newcomer to prominence, thanks to the governor’s comments about his lack of lubricant, has some work to do to catch up with the rest. However, he does have the closest ties to labor, which could give him a strong grassroots presence. Surprisingly, Dunlap seems to have fallen back. After having received 43 percent of the vote in the 2nd district when he ran for U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary against state Sen. Cynthia Dill, state Rep. Jon Hinck, and Ben Pollard, less than 20 percent of those voters have stayed with him. As the only candidate listed who has been on the ballot across the second CD in the recent past (Janet ran for Congress once before, but it was 1994), I would have expected to see him in the lead pack.

It is obviously impossible to pick a winner this early and depending on who ultimately gets in will certainly influence who has the early lead. We know that Emily is a ferocious campaigner. She has already been working the DC circuit to determine what levels of support she can garner from groups like EMILY’s list (a powerful DC group that supports pro-choice Democratic women) and which top-level pollster she can bring in. She has solid progressive credentials and is very articulate on democratic values. I don’t know what kind of personal fundraiser she is, but I expect she will do whatever it takes (in a good way) to build the financial support needed to run a first class campaign. I would certainly not bet against her.

Joe has not had as much prominence politically of recent years, but his last name will be both a blessing and a burden as he tries to distinguish himself from his brother. However, he is well know civically in Bangor and having your base come from the city that sent both John Baldacci and Bill Cohen to Congress. Plus, there are a lot of people in the party who feel that Governor Baldacci served this state well and that good will (and work) will carry over. One note is that when I first saw the numbers I sort of assumed his support was simply because of his brother’s name. But this poll tested the favorable/unfavorable of a number of prominent politicians. It is clear from those numbers that people distinguish Joe from his brother, as Joe’s name ID was way below Governor Baldacci’s.

For Janet Mills, what to say. She has been a stalwart of our party for many years and has built deep credibility as Vice-Chair, helping to bring us through some of our darkest days when the Republicans owned the Blaine House, the State House, and two US Senate seats. She has a lot of friends in the party and works as hard as anyone when she believes in something (she and I entered the trenches on many bills as friends and occasionally adversaries) and I would never underestimate her. Her politics are more moderate than Cain’s, which might help in CD2.

Perhaps most important in reading the tea leaves from these numbers is not in regard to who will win, but who will get in based on their support. If I were advising all six candidates in this race, it is clear that Joe, Janet and Emily should run. Each is in too strong a position to stay out if they have the desire to be a member of Congress. It is also clear that McCabe still has a lot of work to do building his name, and subsequently I would suggest to him that he stay in the Legislature for another term and maybe run for the state Senate in a couple of years.

For Jackson and Dunlap, both people I consider friends (actually I consider all of the above names friends, although I don’t know McCabe that well), I would have mixed advice. I would encourage Jackson to make the jump, understanding that his path will be hard. In this poll he has a solid favorable to unfavorable number (2-1 in favor), and a lot of people simply don’t yet know who he is. That means he has a lot of upside if he is willing to put in the work. Everything I hear is that he will decide to run, so nothing in this poll should dissuade him, although it should be a reality check on how much work he has ahead. For Dunlap, I would probably suggest he sit this one out. His favorables/unfavorables are about even, which is not great since this is a poll of just Dems. Unless he has a deep fire to try again right away, I think he has some work to do re-energizing voters toward his candidacy.

In terms of where this poll came from, it was paid for by someone close to one of the campaigns/potential campaigns and given to me by that person. The firm, Public Policy Polling is Democratic, and has a very strong record of accuracy in Democratic primaries. I spoke to the person at PPP who administered the poll to understand fully the methodology and ask about any inconsistencies I sensed (it seemed to be a little high in terms of women polled, but upon further research the Democratic primary electorate is usually more women than men by 10-12 points).

Additionally, I was given the complete poll and there were no questions prior to the head-to-head that would have influenced any voters in favor or against the top five candidates. The only questions asked about Cain, Mills, Baldacci, Dunlap, and Jackson prior to the head-to-head were whether the voter had a favorable or unfavorable view of the candidate. This is standard in all good polling. Jeff was not tested in this way, so perhaps he has a case to make that his numbers would be smaller in the head-to-head if he had been included. But I expect that he is too unknown for it to have made much of a difference.

In the end, I was satisfied that the poll is an accurate reflection of the current state of affairs within the margin of error.