Maine Poll: Single Electoral College Vote in Battleground Congressional District Up for Grabs

Ballots are prepared to be tabulated for Maine's Second Congressional District's House election Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Augusta, Maine. The election is the first congressional race in American history to be decided by the ranked-choice voting method that allows second choices.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

The lone electoral college vote won by President Trump in New England in the 2016 presidential election is up for grabs, according to a poll of Maine voters released by Colby College on Wednesday.

In Maine, two electoral college votes are awarded to the winner of the statewide popular vote for president, while one electoral college vote is awarded to the winner of the popular vote for president in each of the state’s two congressional districts.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state’s popular vote by a margin of three points, 48 percent to 45 percent, as well as the popular vote in the First Congressional District, which she won by a margin of 14 points, 54 percent to 40 percent.

President Trump, however, won the popular vote in the state’s Second Congressional District by a margin of ten points, 51 percent to 41 percent.

As a result, Clinton was awarded three of the state’s four electoral college votes, while Trump was awarded one. On election day, Trump won 306 electoral college votes to Clinton’s 232 votes. (Due to seven “faithless electors,” the final electoral college tally was 304 for Trump and 227 for Clinton, giving Trump 34 more electoral college votes than the 270 needed to win the presidency.)

The Colby College poll released on Wednesday shows presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading Trump statewide by a margin of 12 points, 50 percent to 38 percent.

The cross tabs break down the poll results by congressional district. In the First Congressional District, Biden leads Trump by 20 points, 55 percent to 35 percent. In the Second Congressional District, Biden leads Trump by three points, 45 percent to 42 percent, which is within the poll’s margin of error.

The poll shows a significant differential based on gender. President Trump leads among men by six points, 48 percent to 42 percent, while former Vice President Biden leads among women, 53 percent to 34 percent.

Sixty-two percent of all respondents answering the presidential preference question were women, while only 38 percent were men.

The poll also showed that Democrat challenger Susan Gideon leads Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) by five points, 44 percent to 39 percent, in the U.S. Senate race.

Among men, Collins leads Gideon by two points, 43 percent to 41 percent, while Gideon leads among women by 12 points, 47 percent to 35 percent.

The poll of 888 likely voters was conducted between July 18 and July 24 and has a margin of error of 3.9 percent. In the presidential preference question, 449 respondents were in the Second Congressional District, while 425 were in the First Congressional District. With those smaller sample sizes, the margin of error for results by the congressional districts is greater than for the statewide poll.

In the weighting of the statewide poll results, 52 percent of poll respondents were in the First Congressional District, while 48 percent of respondents were in the Second Congressional District.

In a tight electoral college race, the one electoral college vote in Maine’s Second Congressional District could have an impact on the outcome of the 2020 race, perhaps giving a modernized version of two famous political quotes about the importance of Maine in presidential elections.

“As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” was the well known saying in the 19th century, when the results Maine’s statewide elections in September often foretold which party would win the presidential election in November.

Democrats offered a different version of that quote after the 1936 presidential election when Roosevelt crushed Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, who was only able to win the electoral college votes of Maine and Vermont.

“As Maine goes, so goes Vermont,” Democrats quipped.

On election night 2020, we will know whether, “As Maine’s Second Congressional District goes, so goes the nation,” will be a meaningful quote of significance or a phrase whose time may never come.

Forty-eight other states and the District of Columbia allocate all of their electoral college votes to the winner of the presidential popular vote in their state. Nebraska is the only state besides Maine that does not allocate its electoral college votes on a “winner take all” basis.

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