Michaud triumphs over Cutler with Planned Parenthood endorsement

In a blow to the gubernatorial campaign of Democratic-leaning independent Eliot Cutler, the political fundraising arm of Maine’s Planned Parenthood announced Monday it’s throwing it’s support behind Democrat Mike Michaud.

Michaud, now a pro-choice candidate, not so long ago campaigned for and served in Congress as a pro-life Democrat. Cutler has been hoping to eat into Michaud’s Democratic support by painting him as untrustworthy on such issues as a woman’s right to choose in the three-way race against Republican incumbent Gov. Paul LePage.

But similar to when the state’s largest gay rights group endorsed Michaud – who, if elected, would be the country’s first openly gay gubernatorial candidate to win – Cutler couldn’t help but air his sour grapes publicly following the Planned Parenthood announcement.

“It is disappointing that [Planned Parenthood] chose to endorse a candidate with such a poor record on women’s reproductive rights — one who cast 28 years of anti-choice votes while taking thousands of dollars from right to life groups during his political career,” said a release by Cutler spokeswoman Crystal Canney. “We are confident that Maine women and men will compare the records of the candidates and support Eliot as the candidate whose record and positions on these and other fundamental issues always have been principled and continue to reflect his unwavering core values.”

That language – and the vote count – nearly mirrors what the campaign said in January when EqualityMaine endorsed Michaud.

“Eliot Cutler and his family have stood side by side with the LGBT community for decades as outspoken advocates and supporters. Mike Michaud’s voting record in the Maine Legislature — 19 consecutive votes against equal rights for the LGBT community — speaks for itself,” Canney had said. “EqualityMaine cannot take away Eliot Cutler’s record on these issues, any more than they can create a new record for Mike Michaud.”

As more and more influential, core Democratic groups rally behind Michaud, Cutler’s quest for campaign cash and experienced get-out-the-vote volunteers gets more and more difficult. Cutler is willing and able to self-fund, but that only gets you so far (ask Les Otten and Bruce Poliquin about their 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary races).

Nicole Clegg, chair of the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund PAC, acknowledged Michaud’s evolving position in her remarks endorsing him.

“Over the past 10 years, Mike Michaud has demonstrated the ability to grow and develop a deeper understanding and respect for women’s health issues. That takes real courage that is noticeably lacking in politics these days,” Clegg said. “Mike has come to share our values, and is now among our most trusted allies, casting vote after vote in support of women’s health and reproductive rights.”

A RealClearPolitics.com polling average shows LePage and Michaud locked in a tie at about 38 percent of the vote apiece and Cutler with a mere 17 percent. While it’s true he gained steam at the end of the race in 2010 to come in a close second to LePage, that was because the Democratic nominee, Libby Mitchell, was seen as a loser. Michaud, buoyed by these endorsements, only appears to be building or maintaining momentum.

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer with U.S. News and World Report, who hails from the state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. She spent much of 2012 covering the presidential campaign and particularly enjoyed her time on the road in states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Ohio and Ohio. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and is a Bowdoin College grad.