But Raye presents a formidable challenge. This summer, the National Republican Congressional Committee named Raye a "Young Gun" — the top tier of their candidate recruitment and training program, representing "the GOP's best opportunities."

"This rematch between Raye and Michaud will be a very different race from the 2002 contest," said an email the NRCC sent after the primaries in June. "Now Michaud has a legislative record that will weigh down his re-election chances. Michaud will be saddled with the burden of having to run on his support for every single major piece of President Obama's agenda — from the takeover of healthcare, to the failed stimulus bill. In such a fiercely independent state, Michaud's record of voting with the President up to 92 percent of the time, repeatedly putting partisan support for Democrat leaders in Washington before Maine's interests, makes him increasingly vulnerable."

Since then, the NRCC has sent missives at least weekly, slamming Michaud mostly on health-care and tax policy. It also released a television commercial in August, claiming that Michaud's votes hurt small businesses. Raye has trumpeted his endorsement by the Business and Industry Political Action Committee, which grew out of the National Association of Manufacturers in the 1960s and chose to endorse only four House challengers this election cycle. He's also highlighted the bill he sponsored to encourage private-sector investment in struggling industries in economically depressed areas. The Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program spurred the redevelopment of the Katahdin Paper Company mill in Millinocket — Michaud's hometown.

Still, despite the fact that less than a month ago, the Morning Sentinel published a story claiming this could be "the toughest race of Michaud's political career," the recent Pan Atlantic SMS Group Omnibus poll, released last week, showed Michaud beating Raye, 52 to 32 percent, with a 6.9-percent margin of error.

What this race comes down to, honestly, is whether or not Michaud has pissed off enough 2nd District voters to allow Raye to squeak by with a win. It doesn't seem that he has, not yet — although his decision not to attend a televised debate in Aroostook County this week may come back to haunt him (Raye is certainly hoping so).

There's one additional wild card stirred into this mix, and that's local support for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Earlier this month, Politico reported that in the 2nd District, Romney is beating President Barack Obama, 49 to 44 percent (with a 4-point margin of error). If rural Maine voters decide to go Republican on the national level, there may be down-ticket consequences.

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