Politics

Political roundup: The aftermath of Tuesday’s House and Senate races

2) Maine Senate primary and its aftermath

On Tuesday, the field of candidates running to replace retiring Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe was whittled down to four. Democratic State Sen. Cynthia Dill and Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers will share the ballot with two independent candidates: Former Gov. Angus King and Steve Woods, a businessman and chairman of the Yarmouth Town Council.

King is the undisputed frontrunner — a wildly popular former governor. But King has refused to say which party he would caucus with in the Senate. It is generally assumed that he will caucus with Democrats: He supported, and continues to support, President Barack Obama. In 2000, he supported President George W. Bush; in 2004, he endorsed John Kerry.

King’s presence puts Democrats in a potentially uncomfortable position, said Nathan Gonzalez of the Rothenberg Political Report. Dill is considered something of a B-list candidate; the stronger Democratic candidates opted not to run when King announced that he was running.

Dill has yet to disprove this characterization. Her last Federal Election Commission report from the end of May showed that she had raised just over $38,000 and had only $9,219 cash on hand. King, by contrast, had raised over $468,795 and had $260,344 cash on hand. As a result, there is little pressure on national Democrats to support her, as she seems to have little chance of winning.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has not indicated any plans to get involved in the race. Reached for comment, spokesman Matt Canter said merely, “Although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already seemed to wipe his hands with Maine, we continue to work with people in Maine to assess the race.”

But Dill is “feisty,” said Gonzalez, and unlikely to go down without a fight. If she begins to gain traction, Gonzalez warned, Democrats could be put in the position of having to quietly campaign against her, to avoid a split vote between her and King. If they divide the vote, Summers could have an opening to squeak into office by winning a plurality.

Summers was not exactly voted in with a groundswell of support. Just 27 percent of Maine Republicans turned out to vote in the primary, and just 29 percent of them voted for Summers in the six-way primary. According to the Bangor Daily News, he, like Dill, won the nomination by virtue of high name identification (he has run in Maine elections before).

Another corkscrew in this race is the presence of Woods, the second independent candidate on the ballot. In a press release Wednesday, Woods announced that he would not play the “spoiler” in November if it became clear that he had no chance of winning. He promised to pull out of the race a week before the election if public, non-partisan polling found him losing to King by 10 or more points. He asked King to make the same promise, should the polls find things to be the other way around. He made the endorsement in advance, however, calling King “smart, honest, moral, articulate, charismatic, funny, warm, thoughtful and more politically astute than Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan combined.”

He explained in the press release that he was making the endorsement now because he did not feel that endorsements that came after long bitter campaigns and vicious attack on the opponent, like Newt Gingrich’s endorsement of Mitt Romney, could really be perceived as sincere.