Monday, September 26, 2016

The Maine Event

It looks like for the first time since legislation was passed to allow Maine's electoral votes to be divided by its two congressional districts, the Pine Tree State will almost certainly split its four electoral votes. How that will affect the overall race is anyone's guess, but it goes to show just how divided voters are this year in states, and apparently there are still quite a few undecided Mainers even this late in the election season.

Republican Donald Trump has a commanding 15-point lead in the state’s northern and more rural 2nd District, while his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has an even bigger 21-point lead in the state’s more urban and southern 1st District, according to a new Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll.

Clinton leads Trump statewide by four points, with 40 percent of those surveyed saying they will vote for her while 36 percent said they favor Trump. Another 12 percent said they will vote for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and 3 percent favor the Green Party’s Jill Stein. The remainder said they will vote for someone else or are undecided.

With only seven weeks remaining before the election, only 59 percent of voters said they definitely know who they’ll vote for, up only eight points from the newspaper’s poll in June, when 51 percent of voters said they had made up their minds.

Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, which conducted the poll, said voter indecision is high for mid-September, when about 70 percent of voters normally say they’ve made up their minds. Smith said the low commitment level reflects the unpopularity of both of the top candidates.

The poll found that only 37 percent of likely voters view Clinton favorably, compared to 36 percent in June, while only 32 percent view Trump favorably, compared to 28 percent in June.

“You’ve got two very unpopular candidates and people are voting against candidates rather than supporting people,” Smith said. “Voters truly are unsure about who they are going to support.”

Forty percent undecided is a lot...and they may not decide at all in the end, if the state's stubborn streak has anything to say about it.  But we're looking at a massive divide between urban and rural America this year, even within the same state.

Comparing the two major parties, 77 percent of registered Democrats said they had made their decision, while only 61 percent of the state’s registered Republicans have, the poll found.

The newspaper data showed that in June, Clinton had a slightly larger lead over Trump, with 42 percent supporting her compared to Trump’s 35 percent – statewide.

Some poll respondents, such as Peggy Coolong of Houlton, say they are so dissatisfied with their choices for president that they will leave that part of the ballot blank in November.

“I just can’t vote for them,” said Coolong, a 76-year-old widow who calls herself “a pure independent.”

“I do not think that Hillary is trustworthy and I feel very strongly that Mr. Trump probably is going to lose his temper, understandably, but at the wrong time and get us into trouble,” Coolong said.

She said the entire presidential campaign cycle has been so disappointing to her that she’s tuned it out entirely.

I just got fed up and stopped watching, it’s just too frustrating,” Coolong said. “The political climate is so polluted it’s like a tsunami going across the United States and it’s inhabited by a clown puffer fish and a piranha who are followed around by meatheads – half-conscious people who can’t stop talking about it.”

Of course, that's exactly what Donald Trump's camp wants to see: large numbers of voters who say they just don't give a damn and want the "half-conscious meatheads" to stop talking about the election so they can get back to their TV shows.

The only necessary thing for the triumph of Trump is for good people to not vote, to paraphrase Edmund Burke.  In fact, Trump is counting on it, and frankly, it's working.

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