Election 2016: Where candidates stand in Maine

The Colby Echo previously reported on disgruntled Todd Michaud’s stolen Trump campaign signs. However, this energetic Trump support is likely not evidence of changing political allegiances in Waterville. President Obama carried 80% of Waterville voters in 2008, and FiveThirtyEight shows that Clinton will likely take the city. But the story is not the same in all of Maine, and a stark regional divide will likely make this a historic election in the state.

As one of two states that does not have a winner take all system, Maine awards two electoral votes to the statewide winner, and one each to the winner(s) of two individual districts, the first and second. This will likely be the first year that Maine splits its electoral vote allocation between the two candidates.

If current trends hold, Clinton will receive three of Maine’s votes and Trump will receive one. This is because, according to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll, Trump has a 15 point lead in the northern, rural Second District, while Clinton has a 21 point lead in the more populous and urban first District, which includes Waterville.

In line with this data, FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast gives Clinton a 75% chance of winning the statewide vote and a 93.6% chance of winning District One, but gives Trump a 70% chance of taking District Two.

University of New England political scientist Brian Duff agrees that Trump’s unprecedented single-district lead will likely split Maine’s electoral distribution. Mr. Duff stated, in an interview with the Portland Press Herald, that the “heart and soul of [Maine Governor] LePage’s support… white people without a college education, especially men, are really having a positive reaction to the Trump campaign.”

Similarly, University of New England Survey Center Director Andrew Smith finds northern, rural parts of Maine to be one of many national pockets of non-college-educated whites that feature substantial Trump support.

Census data shows that 75% of Second District residents over the age of 25 are white and without a college degree, Trump’s strongest demographic. Furthermore, while Mainers are as non-churchgoing as the rest of New England, 19% say that they are white evangelical protestants, a group that supports Trump 50% more often than they support Clinton, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Maine is not traditionally a battleground state, but Trump has visited multiple times during his campaign, and appeared at the Portland Expo on October 6. Clinton has not visited the state. Additionally, NBC reports that the NRA reserved television space for pro-Trump ads in one of the largest District two cities, Bangor.

The Maine state government is also split. In a New York Times Opinion piece, Republican Senator Susan Collins stated that she would not vote for Trump. She cited his denigration of Congressman John McCain’s military service, his harassment of Megyn Kelly, his mocking of a disabled reporter, his unfounded insistence on Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ethnic bias and his attack on the Gold Star parents of Army Captain Humayun Khan as reasons why he is “unworthy of being president.” She did not state support for Clinton.

Conversely, the Boston Globe cites a ‘bromance’ between Trump and Republican Governor Paul LePage, who introduces Trump at Maine rallies. In a Portland Press Herald interview, Trump applauded LePage’s performance as governor, saying “Paul is terrific, he’s doing a great job,” and adding that he may bring the governor to Washington if he wins. Trump said he “would certainly find something for Paul because he’s done such a great job [in Maine].” LePage’s supporters, including one Colby professor who spoke with The Echo, see that Trump shares his bombast, but often doubt that he also shares the Governor’s understanding of small government principles and his policy wonkiness.

Statewide, Clinton leads by three points according to a Colby College/Boston Globe survey. Racial divides are prominent in national polls, but less so in 95% white Maine. But state polls are still divided across economic, educational, and age and gender-based lines.

The UNH Survey Center states that Clinton carries 47% of Mainers earning less than $30,000 per year and 52% of those earning more than $100,000, but she and Trump tie in both the $30,000-$60,000 and $60,000-$100,000 brackets. Clinton leads by 16 points among voters over 65 and eight points among those aged 35 to 49, while the 18 to 34 and 50 to 65 age groups are relatively split. Clinton leads by 19 points among women, while Trump leads by 12 points among men.

In line with the national data, Mainers view neither candidate favorably, with Clinton leading Trump 37-32 in favorability. Only 76% of UNH poll respondents said they are voting for either Clinton or Trump, and only 59% said they are ‘definitely decided.’ The Libertarian Party claimed 12% of respondents and Jill Stein of the Green Party claimed three.

The last time a Republican won Maine was in 1984.

Despite Trump’s push, FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast maintains Clinton’s statewide preeminence, showing that Maine would only vote Republican statewide if 68% of college-educated whites voted for Trump, or if 74% of non-college-educated whites voted Republican.

Still, Trump will likely take District Two. The Maine districts are divided along what Politico reports Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennet calling the ‘Volvo line.’ Bennet said, “North of that you don’t see any Volvos.”

North of Bennet’s Volvo line are what Bangor journalist Theodoric Meyer calls the “small cities and struggling mill towns” that compose Trump’s Maine support. Bennet added, “they’ve always talked about the two Maines, but I think it’s really becoming politically palpable now.”

The Second District’s single electoral vote is likely not going to decide the election. “But if [Trump is] able to do it in Maine, it’s an indication he can do well in Pennsylvania or Michigan,” says Matt Gagnon, CEO of The Maine Heritage Policy Center, in an interview with Roll Call.

That’s unlikely. Clinton has 70+% chances in both of those states, according to FiveThirtyEight’s forecast.

But Trump’s lead, and Bennet’s comment, perhaps reflect the ‘politically palpable’ divisions in the country that have driven this election season.

In the south of Maine, and in much of the country, there are college-educated Americans who want cogent policy and a politically experienced president. While such Americans have reasonable divisions in their viewpoints, and many would vote another Republican candidate over Clinton, pollsters show that these Americans are not the brunt of Trump’s support.

That support comes primarily from people like District two Mainers: white, non-college educated Americans. The Trump campaign message to these people is that the current economic system is disenfranchising their labor, and, UNE Survey Center Director Smith adds, the current political system is decreasing American prestige and competitiveness.

Roll Call also reports that an influx of African immigrants have stirred xenophobia in Lewiston, a District Two city where LePage grew up homeless. Mayor Robert Macdonald stated, “I don’t have any problem with refugees,” before explaining why they may be disruptive to the community, and speaking of programs to destroy apartment buildings to decrease the influx.

But, despite Mr. Michaud’s signage and support from numerous cities and governors, Trump likely won’t win Waterville, let alone the Presidency.

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