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Along the craggy coasts of northern Maine and amid the vast rural forests of the Pine Tree State's 2nd district, Republicans see opportunity.
Although the 2nd voted 55 percent for Barack Obama in 2008, Republicans hope the rightward shift of the state in 2010 — the GOP holds both chambers of the state Legislature and the governor's mansion for the first time in nearly five decades — is a signal that Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud is in danger.
Michaud won with 55 percent of the vote last cycle and is well-liked, but the fierce independence of voters in Maine, coupled with a redistricting process that could nudge the faintly Democratic district into a genuine tossup, has Republicans closely watching Michaud's seat.
A top potential Republican contender is state Senate President Kevin Raye. If he jumps in the race, voters may experience a dose of déjà vu at their polling precincts: In 2002, Raye faced off against Michaud, who was the Senate President at the time. Raye lost the open-seat battle by just 9,019 votes, earning 48 percent.
Democrats acknowledge the district — where in a three-way gubernatorial race in 2010, tea-party-affiliated Republican Paul LePage won every county but one — is not safe for them, but they put their faith in Michaud.
"It's never going to be a slam dunk for us in the 2nd C.D., but we have the right candidate," said a top-ranking Democrat in the state.
"While rural Maine is traditionally more of a battleground, no one is a more perfect fit for the district than Congressman Michaud," state Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said in a statement.
It's true that Michaud, a pro-gun-rights Blue Dog Democrat and former mill worker, fits his district.
But Republicans see shifting alignments in the district at the statewide political level that they hope are a harbinger of what's to come in federal races. Many of the GOP Members who helped give Republicans the majority in the Legislature are from the 2nd district.
Republicans see their success not just as a result of the national wave, but as a successful statewide reframe of the party's platform.
State GOP Chairman Charles Webster said that when he took over in 2009, he put up a sign at the state party headquarters that read, "Working people vote Republican."
He said Democrats had prevailed in previous cycles by convincing middle-class and working-class voters that "Walmart workers, truck drivers, people that work with their hands, that they were the party that represented them."
But for the 2010 cycle, "We were able to recruit candidates that prove that we were on their side," Webster said.