- Independent Eliot Cutler hasn't cracked 20 percent in recent polls for the governor's race.
- Democrats say Cutler is siphoning off votes from Dem. candidate Rep. Mike Michaud.
- Cutler said there's no 'bromance' between him and Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
Don't expect a chest bump on election night this year in Maine.
Independent governor candidate Eliot Cutler denied a close relationship between himself and the Republican incumbent, Paul LePage, during their final debate Tuesday night.
"I would not suggest -- and I think he would agree, that we don't have a bromance," Cutler told CNN's Dana Bash while distancing himself from the man he high-fived and hugged during their first debate earlier this month. "Four years ago ... we ended up with Paul LePage as governor. We shouldn't make that mistake again."
LePage agreed there's a lack of brotherly love between the two in a humorous moment during an hour-long debate, sponsored by WMTV, CNN, and WABI, along with Democratic candidate Rep. Mike Michaud.
It's a tight race between LePage and Michaud. Cutler -- who hasn't registered above 20 percent in most recent polls -- has caused ire among Pine Tree state Democrats, who think he's splitting the anti-LePage vote that would coalesce around Michaud in a two-person race, ensuring a Democratic victory.
LePage, who doesn't deny some benefits of the third party candidate, agrees Cutler is taking away from a major party candidate's smooth victory -- his own.
"If it was Mike Michaud versus Paul LePage, the election's over," he said about his own head-to-head strength against the six-term congressman.
The candidates sparred that way as well, with LePage and Michaud saving their harshest attacks for each other, letting Cutler attack on topics he wanted or stay out of the ones he didn't.
While talking broadly about infrastructure, health care, and taxes, Michaud's attacks over LePage's attempts to cut some government programs prompted some of the unvarnished candor he's earned a reputation for using when provoked.
"I've listened to all this rhetoric for about several months now; I'm tired of it," LePage said. "This man doesn't know what honesty is, and that's all I can tell you."
Michaud showed some grit in his own rebut about LePage's frankness. "What the governor says is anything, whether it's factual or not," he said.
Cutler struck right down the middle, ignoring the sparks and proposing to find a way to pay for Michaud's proposals and avoid more of LePage's cuts.
Asked about the current Ebola outbreak in America, Michaud struck at the state's preparedness, criticizing LePage for leaving two top infectious disease positions open at the Maine Center for Disease Control.
"The governor has failed us as far as keeping these positions vacant," Michaud said.
LePage didn't take the bait and quickly turned to the work he's done since the crisis began to prepare the state and respond to two suspected cases that did not test positive.
"As your governor I'm not going to be irresponsible and scare the Maine people," he said. "I am assured by the doctors, and by the professionals at the hospitals, that we are as prepared as we can be."
On this, Cutler agreed with Michaud that the positions needed to be filled but made a sharp turn to health care reform, spending very little time on the topic of Ebola.
LePage also stood by his comments from the previous night's debate about people making a wage of $100,000 not qualifying as wealthy.
"I don't think it's off-mark, I don't think it's wealthy, I really don't," LePage said. "I defy anybody to tell me if you're making make $100,000 and you've got two kids going to college, and you want to give to try to give them a good start in life, that that's a lot of money."
Michaud -- who prides himself as one who fights for the middle class -- pounced.
"The fact that the governor said last night that $100,000 is not a lot of money -- it IS a lot of money," Michaud said. "The governor doesn't understand what hardworking men and women are going through here in the state of Maine."
Whoever wins will need appeal to Maine's love of bipartisanship, which has given Independent Angus King to the governor's mansion twice and a current senate seat in Washington.
To do that though, perhaps a little more bromance is needed.