Trouble on the horizon for Maine Democrats?

Ethan Strimling (BDN photo by Gabor Degre)

Ethan Strimling (BDN photo by Gabor Degre)

A new 400-person poll will come out next week on the governor’s race from the firm Pan Atlantic SMS Group, otherwise known casually in political circles as Patrick Murphy’s firm. While I am not at liberty to say what the governor’s race numbers will look like (Patrick agreed to preview the poll with me, as long as I didn’t reveal specific numbers), there are some interesting trends in other questions that I discovered and Patrick has allowed me to discuss.

The first of those trends are things Democrats should be paying very close attention to. The second are some interesting numbers on who Republicans would most like to see challenge Gov. Paul LePage in a primary. But that post will come later.

First some rough news for Democrats:

  1. Murphy’s poll is going to show President Barack Obama at his lowest approval rating in Maine in the history of his presidency. In fact, this poll will show that Obama is even below the job approval number of Gov. Paul LePage! For those of us who bleed blue, this is a very bitter pill to swallow (although I can leak that Michaud’s approvals are still solid).
  2. Murphy’s poll is also going to show that legislative leaders in the State House are faring behind LePage and our members of Congress in terms of doing what it takes to move the state forward. How does anyone come in behind Congress these days, let alone LePage?!
  3. Murphy also asked people which statement was closer to their ideology: “Government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people,” or “Government is doing too many things that are better left to businesses and individuals.” If you didn’t recognize the underlying message of those two statements, the first is basically Democratic ideology. The second, Republicanism. A majority in this poll chose the latter.
  4. On one of our signature issues, the expansion of health care to 70,000 Maine people, Murphy asked voters whether the Legislature was correct to pass the expansion or whether LePage was correct to veto. Although a majority in this poll agree that expansion was better, it was barely a majority and much closer than many other polls have shown.

So, what does all this mean? Does it mean right-wingers are correct? Not a chance. Obama has done a remarkable job under very tough circumstances, as have our Democratic leaders in the State House. And there is no doubt that government is needed more than ever during these tough economic times, and trying to expand health care was unquestionably the right move.

But what it does mean is that we clearly aren’t getting that message out. We aren’t defending our positions clearly enough, and we are probably getting lost in side battles that look petty. Nor have we made our case, over and over and over, on the basic tenet of our party: The vital role government does, can, and must play in ensuring that all our citizens are safe at night, educated during the day, working to support a family, healthy in hospitals, fed at dinner, and warm in the winter.

When people understand that value clearly, all the rest of our work falls into place. When they don’t, we see numbers like those above.

Obviously, there is plenty of time before the election in November 2014 to turn these numbers around. But turn them around we must. If Obama is this low next fall, and legislative leaders are still in third in terms of effectiveness, and people still think government should get out of the way as opposed to help those in need, November 2014, could look eerily like November 2010.

Posted by Ethan Strimling