Green Room

Maine Senate Race Game Change

posted at 9:57 pm on March 5, 2012 by

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.

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Hello! I was really surprised at the hand-wringing going here at HotAir about Snowe’s seat costing the GOP the Senate.

SouthernGent on March 5, 2012 at 11:05 PM

Angus King will win. Maine loves him, and remembers the good days with him as former governor.

He will be the irritant for whoever is in the majority.

UODuckMan on March 6, 2012 at 2:18 AM

Remember, this is the state that gave Barack Obama 57% of the vote in 2008 while at the same time giving Susan Collins 61%.

And other than the letter behind their respective names, what’s the difference again?

Steve Eggleston on March 6, 2012 at 7:48 AM

Angus King will win. Maine loves him, and remembers the good days with him as former governor.

Correction: Maine loved him. Since retiring, some of the policies he set into place during the good times have come back to bite us in the bad. Plus, he’s been a major proponent of costly green energy projects since then. The state’s ardor for him has cooled a bit.

Slublog on March 6, 2012 at 9:05 AM

So, if King gets in, it will be new tool, same as the old tool from Maine.

Kissmygrits on March 6, 2012 at 9:43 AM

Hello! I was really surprised at the hand-wringing going here at HotAir about Snowe’s seat costing the GOP the Senate.

SouthernGent on March 5, 2012 at 11:05 PM

As was I. Even if one were to assume that the Democrats win Maine, or that King caucuses with them, the numbers still favor the chances of a GOP takeover.

Brown and Heller are regaining control of their races, so ME is our only questionable hold. Meanwhile, we pick up:
ND – easily
NE – Kerrey won’t save them.
MT – Tester hasn’t been above 44% in ages.
MO – McCaskill is stuck low 40s against a fractured field.
WI – Baldwin is too far to the left to be electable statewide.

Those five would get us to 51 even without keeping Maine, enough that we won’t even need to worry about VP Jindal/Ryan/Rubio/West to cast the tie-breaking vote. That’s not even factoring in tossup chances in FL or VA, or possibilities of a race emerging in OH, MI, NM, WV, or even HI. If we can get Summers or somebody to hold Maine for us, then great – run up the score – but it surely isn’t necessary for reclaiming the Senate.

Gingotts on March 6, 2012 at 2:24 PM

So, if King gets in, it will be new tool, same as the old tool from Maine.

Yup!

mooseygoosey on March 6, 2012 at 5:43 PM