Maine Senate Race Game Change
posted at 9:57 pm on March 5, 2012 by Slublog
Look at this map. It shows the results of the 2010 gubernatorial election in Maine. The red counties are those won by Republican Paul LePage. The green are those won by independent Eliot Cutler. There are no blue counties, because Democrat Elizabeth Mitchell didn’t win one.
Angus King’s decision to run as an independent may re-create it in Maine’s Senate race this fall. When Olympia Snowe announced her retirement from the senate, Democrats rejoiced because they automatically assumed the seat was theirs to lose. They should moderate their expectations.
As Sean Trende noted last week, politically, Maine is not the most predictable state. Southern and coastal Maine (and the St. John Valley) tend to be Democratic. Northern, central and western Maine tend to trend center-right. In order to win statewide, a Democrat needs to rack up huge margins in southern and coastal Maine (the state’s population centers) to overcome the center-right advantage in the rural vote. If the Democrats nominate Chellie Pingree, she and King would split the vote in those counties, opening the door to a potential GOP win.
Pingree is more liberal than the average Maine voter outside of her district, which makes her vulnerable to a challenge from the center-left King. So far, Republicans William Schneider and Charlie Summers have both declared their intention to run for the seat. Both are relatively moderate candidates who could get more support than LePage did in Pingree’s district, weakening her and King’s overall electoral position.
This is, of course, a presidential election year so turnout will be heavier than normal. However, Mainers are not party-line voters so I could see the state going for Obama while splitting the Senate vote between a liberal Democrat and an independent, allowing a moderate Republican to win a plurality. Remember, this is the state that gave Barack Obama 57% of the vote in 2008 while at the same time giving Susan Collins 61%.
I hope Democrats didn’t spend too much on the victory champagne, because this race just got interesting.