I recently received an automated phone call from Survey USA, which bills itself as “America’s Neighborhood Pollster.” That’s sort of like Purdue Pharma calling itself “America’s Neighborhood Dope Dealer,” except illicit drugs are way more interesting than polls.
While OxyContin subverts your will and wrecks your life, the average political poll subverts your intelligence and wrecks your faith in democracy. A small but significant difference.
This call wasn’t a regular poll. It was a push poll, which masquerades as an attempt to gauge your opinions, but is really gauging whether it can come up with some skewed factoid that’ll change your mind.
The subject it was seeking to change my mind about was Democrat Troy Jackson of Allagash, president of the Maine Senate. Survey USA (on behalf of the slimy entity that was paying for the poll) wanted me to think Jackson would make a great candidate for governor.
It might be easier to convince me to hire Andrew Cuomo to run the state’s sexual-harassment hotline.
The poll included gushy descriptions of Jackson’s background and many of his proposals. It noted that he’s a logger, a labor activist, and a reformer, but neglected to point out that some of those reforms are impractical and others are unconstitutional. Also, it forgot to mention that he’s a hothead and a loudmouth.
Those descriptors are problematic, at best, but it’s flat out absurd that Jackson is seriously contemplating running for governor. Maine already has Democrat Janet Mills in that office. Mills is running for reelection next year. Other Dems need not apply.
During the last legislative session, Jackson and Mills disagreed on lots of issues (drug-pricing restrictions, publicly owned power companies, buy-American-products requirements). She vetoed a fistful of his progressive bills and derailed others by rallying the opposition. Did that make the volatile Jackson angry enough to challenge her in next June’s primary?
The answer from a political insider I spoke with: “Troy Jackson for governor? You must be joking.”
I was a little offended. My jokes are usually funnier than that.
So, who is paying for this thinly disguised campaign?
It could be Jackson or his allies, who are deluded enough to think he has a shot at taking the Democratic nomination away from a sitting governor, even though he’s not well known statewide, has a tendency to fly off the handle, and is kind of a boob.
It could be a plot by Republicans seeking to cause a rift in the donkey party by encouraging rebellious lefties or luring an independent contender into the governor’s race, thereby diluting Mills’ appeal.
Or it could be the poll was paid for by liberal activists without Jackson’s knowledge, with the intent of either pressuring Mills to move to the left or convincing Jackson to squander his political career by taking her on.
It turns out it’s that last one. Former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling heads a fringe group that put up the money. Strimling and co-writer Phil Harriman revealed the scam in their weekly Bangor Daily News column, claiming the poll clearly showed Jackson could beat Mills in a primary. They neglected to mention the push-poll aspects of the survey, an omission that seems to be sorta unethical.
Strimling has tried this sort of polling ploy before, most notably in the 2020 Senate race, when he had Republican Susan Collins losing her seat. We all know how that turned out.
No one would mistake Jackson for a rocket scientist, but he’s not so dim as to completely miscalculate his electability. He didn’t get to be Senate president by being unable to read the room. And with a little help, he can probably read this poll.
There’s also the little matter of how Jackson would fare if he somehow won the nomination. He’d have to face the presumptive GOP nominee, former Gov. Paul LePage, pitting a little-known liberal blowhard against a well-known conservative blowhard. That would leave a sizeable opening for an anti-blowhard candidate. Assuming such a thing exists.
Take this to the bank: Troy Jackson is not going to be the next governor of Maine. Or the one after that, either.
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