The Universal Notebook: Will Cutler be a hero or a goat?

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Like the majority of Maine voters, I do not believe that Gov. Paul LePage deserves a second term.

The combination of his boorish personality and blame-the-victims policies raises both my hackles and my blood pressure. I am embarrassed to think that Mainers were stupid enough to elect such a bully in the first place, and simply can’t imagine that we would do so again.

Also, like the majority of Maine voters, I am greatly concerned that Democrat Mike Michaud and Independent Eliot Cutler, either of whom would beat LePage in a two-way race, will somehow split the moderate-progressive vote, allowing the conservative LePage to slip back in with a mean plurality.

The latest polls show LePage and Michaud in a dead heat at 40 percent each and Cutler trailing badly at just 14 percent. At some point in the next few months, Cutler is going to have decide whether he wants to be a hero by dropping out (or, I suppose, by pulling off a last-minute win). But if LePage wins a second term, Maine history will record Cutler as a goat, the spoiler who threw the election to an unpopular incumbent.

Of course, I’m sure each campaign has its own internal polls that show their man ahead or gaining, and support for their opponents eroding. Funny how that works, isn’t it? But it’s early, and the results in November rarely reflect the polls in April.

I admit that, while I believe Cutler might actually make a good governor, as things stand I will vote for Michaud rather than risk four more years of LePage. I will also admit that an earlier version of this column suggested that Cutler should do us all a favor and simply withdraw from the race immediately. The Cutler campaign probably wishes Michaud would get out of the race, too. I seem to recall, however, that Michaud announced his candidacy a month ahead of Cutler.

Still, imagine the relief around the state if Cutler called it quits and a LePage defeat was assured. People would love the man who made the ultimate sacrifice, the winner could reward him with a cabinet-level position in his administration, and LePage could start packing his bags for Florida.

I know Cutler and his campaign staff must be sick and tired of hearing the “Please don’t be a spoiler” pleas and the “A vote for Cutler is a vote for LePage” plaints, but quite honestly that’s what I hear in every discussion of the gubernatorial race. And that’s certainly the card the Republicans are playing.

Conservative talk show host and Portland native Howie Carr underscored how important Cutler’s candidacy is to LePage’s re-election in February when he told Cumberland County Republicans, “I really hope that as you go through the next few months, if you have ‘moonbat’ friends, you really should talk up Eliot Cutler. I think it’s really important, given the demographics of the state, to keep Eliot Cutler a viable option.”

Moonbats for Cutler: that’s the LePage campaign strategy.

The only immediate downside I see to Cutler withdrawing is that once LePage realizes he no longer stands a chance of re-election, there is no end to the craziness he might unleash on Maine before he leaves office. He won’t go quietly, that’s for sure.

Cutler talks a good game of independent thinking and freedom from special interests, but he has never held elective office and therefore has no record to run on. His best chance of getting elected right now is for Michaud to be abducted by aliens.

Michaud has a long record to run on, but his past records on gay rights, reproductive rights, and gun control are troublesome. His campaign says he has “evolved” and portrays him as a progressive “going forward.” But if you’re looking for nice guy to beat LePage, Michaud seems to be the man. Through seven terms in the Maine Legislature and six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Michaud has never lost an election.

So the way the 2014 gubernatorial race is shaping up we have a choice of Mr. Nice Guy But … , Mr. Bright Guy But …, or Mr. Kiss My Butt. I sure hope one of them doesn’t turn into a goat.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.