Former Gov. Angus King’s formidable lead in the Maine Senate race is no longer quite so formidable.
King, an independent, now leads Republican Charlie Summers by a mere eight points, 43 percent to 35 percent, according to a Public Policy Polling poll released Wednesday.
Democrat Cynthia Dill – whose candidacy has been largely eclipsed by King’s, as he is widely expected to caucus with Democrats if elected – is at 14 percent.
When King first entered the race, he was seen as all but unbeatable with his statewide name identification and reputation as a popular governor. But Republicans have started to make a play for the seat – with the National Republican Senatorial Campaign and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce relentlessly attacking King’s record as governor. The seat is a necessary one for Republicans to win, now that their hopes for winning Senate seats in other states – such as Missouri – appear to be dimming.
The barrage of attacks appears to be working. King’s popularity has dropped in PPP’s polling, from 62 percent favorable, 24 percent unfavorable in March, to 52 percent favorable, 35 percent unfavorable now.
A win for Republicans depends in part on driving up Dill’s numbers. If she pulls enough voters away from King, then Summers can coast to a win without a majority of the vote. Several outside Republican groups have come in touting Dill as a liberal to help boost her numbers, and it appears to be working.
Though 69 percent of Democrats still have a favorable opinion of King (down from 74 percent), one-quarter of Democrats said they would vote for Dill. Though King is supported by 58 percent of Democrats, that’s a large chunk of voters for him to be losing as the race tightens.
“This is now a horse race,” said Rob Engstrom, the Chambers’ Political Director.
“Unfortunately for Gov. King, facts are stubborn things,” he said of the Chamber’s ads attacking King for increasing state spending as governor, as well as leaving the state with a budget gap.
“While polls are just a snapshot in time, it’s abundantly clear that anyone who thought this race would be a coronation was dead wrong,” emailed Summers campaign communications director Drew Brandewie. “The more Mainers learn about Angus King’s financial mismanagement as Governor and questionable dealings in the wind business, the more his support shrinks. And the more Charlie meets with working people across Maine the more they realize that a small businessman who shares their principles and priorities is the best person to cut spending, keep taxes low, and balance budgets in Washington.”