Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) announced Thursday that he will officially explore a run for governor in 2014, giving Democrats a top recruit against Gov. Paul LePage (R).

Michaud isn't fully in the race yet, saying instead that he wants to gauge the level of support for his campaign. But politicians who launch exploratory committees rarely wind up opting out.

In a video announcing his exploratory committee, Michaud takes a direct shot at the outspoken and polarizing LePage.

"We need a governor who can restore civility in Augusta, while treating everyone with dignity and respect," Michaud said.

LePage, who recently mentioned taking up arms after state legislators denied his request to address them, is suffering from poor personal approval numbers, and Maine is definitely a blue state. But Maine Democrats' hopes of winning are often compromised by the presence of independent candidates -- something they will have to deal with again in 2014.

Eliot Cutler, the 2010 independent candidate who finished a close second behind LePage, jumped into the race last week and should carry significant support again.

Democrats, though, note Michaud is a much stronger candidate than their 2010 nominee, Libby Mitchell, who finished a distant third. Michaud is also considered likely to clear the Democratic primary, which will allow him focus on LePage and Cutler.

A poll from Democratic-leaning pollster Public Policy Polling in January showed Michaud (58 percent favorable, 23 percent unfavorable) is much more popular than LePage (39/55). But the perilous nature of a three-way race was also evident in the poll, as despite his poor numbers, LePage led Michaud 34 percent to 30 percent in a race that included Cutler, who was at 26 percent.

Maine's governor's seat is currently listed by The Fix as the third most likely to switch parties, out of three dozen races in 2014.