What to look for in Cain vs. Poliquin

The results are in – it’s Democrat Emily Cain versus Republican Bruce Poliquin competing for the right to represent Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. I have to say, as an observer, it’s going to be more fun to watch this race than it would have if former Senate President Kevin Raye won – he and Cain would likely have spent each debate courting centrist voters and talking about how well they worked to cut budget deals together. Yawn.

Frankly, the fact that 2nd District Democrats went overwhelmingly for the dealmaker and the Republicans for the more conservative candidate is not surprising, given it’s make-up. Despite what folks might be saying about out-going Rep. Mike Michaud now, the man played the conservative, pragmatic nature of the district perfectly.

But Cain against Poliquin is going to be anything but a snooze-fest. Both will have all the money they need – Cain from her own fundraising and outside interest groups and Poliquin from himself if he needs. Poliquin has shown a penchant for going dirty so it’ll be interesting to see what he hits Cain on. Cain has shown a reluctance to take the cheap shot – and has yet to rebound from a real hit – so this general election may just show the depth of her mettle.

Back when this race was getting started, one top Republican strategist told me Cain was the Democrat they most feared. She’s smart, personable and kept her friends close and enemies closer in Augusta. That is to say, she opposed many of Gov. Paul LePage’s initiatives while serving as House minority leader, but she never got banned from the Blaine House (see her male Democratic majority successors). While she’s not the plain-spoken mill worker Michaud is, she is rooted in the community at the University of Maine and she’s been a fixture at the State House in Augusta for a decade.

Poliquin, conversely, is an odd fit for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. He’s from away (Southern Maine) and spent his career in finance in … New York City? I mean sure, he grew up in Waterville, but when he speaks of economics, it’s feels theoretical – numbers on a page – rather than tangible, like when LePage does. Yet he’s captured the imagination of the more conservative sect in Downeast, where there are quite a few. But really, it might have been mostly Raye fatigue that aided his victory.

On substantive policy, the differences are obvious. Immigration, economics, abortion, gay rights. These two won’t be speaking in nuance. And they both are hardworking pols, willing to wait until the last hand to shake has, in fact, been shook. The victor will be the one who rings the most true to Maine voters, for the most part regardless of any individual position. That’s the tradition and I think it remains the litmus test for most.

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a breaking news editor for CNN's digital politics team in Washington. Previously, she was a senior news editor with U.S. News and World Report, where she began her three-year tenure as a political writer. She spent much of 2012 on the road covering the presidential campaign in battleground states across the country. Metzler proudly tells all who will listen she hails from the great state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and her undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College.