Ever since Sen. Olympia Snowe announced her retirement, and former Gov. Angus King threw his hat into the ring to replace her, we have heard one thing and one thing only: King is inevitable.
Enter a new poll from the Public Policy Polling (PPP) Wednesday. Angus King’s lead has dwindled from roughly 30 points after the primaries, to now just 8 points. King sits at 43 percent, Summers at 35 percent and Dill at 14 percent. That’s called negative momentum, folks.
These numbers are even more interesting than they initial appear. According to polling analyst Nate Silver of the New York Times, in the 2012 election cycle, PPP has what is known as a “house effect” of 3.1 percent in favor of the Democrats. House effects are, as Silver describes, “systematic tendencies” of a pollster to favor one party or another.
Given that King is rightly viewed as the de facto Democrat in the race, that suggests that the race may be even tighter than this poll tells us.
One look at the polling sample used by PPP should worry King. Forty-two percent of those polled in this survey were Democrats; only 29 percent were Republicans and 29 percent independents.
The reality in Maine is much different than that. According to the most recent voter registration statistics in Maine, Democrats actually only make up 32.2 percent of the voting electorate; Republicans make up 28.16 percent; and independents sit at 36.22 percent.
This poll dramatically over-sampled Democrats and under-sampled Republicans and independents. This is important, as the poll showed King winning roughly six out of ten Democrats.
Maine’s electorate is actually starting to understand what King really is: a liberal politician cloaking himself with a veneer of independence and moderation.
In 1994, when King barely won his first election as Maine’s governor, he did so on the backs of Republicans. It was they, not Democrats, that abandoned their nominee — Susan Collins — and cast their ballot for King, putting him over the top in his bid to beat Joe Brennan.
Not so this year. PPP’s survey showed that only 13 percent of Republicans are drinking the King Kool-Aid, and that number is likely to go down even further.
Democrats, in contrast, understand that Dill is simply not a viable option and view King and his eventual caucus vote for Harry Reid as a sure-fire vote for their party. His being in lockstep with virtually the entire Democratic platform is just icing on the cake.
Yet, King continues his “moderate” charade. Every day we are treated to a new and clever attempt to convince Maine people that he is a principled centrist, beholden to no one party, when everyone — even those who are going to vote for him — knows otherwise.
But that disingenuous cover is looking more cynical by the minute. Every day he points at the color black and tells us it is the color white is another day that he feels more like a conventional politician and less like the independent voice Mainers have grown accustomed to in Snowe.
Indeed, his entire campaign is a study in saying one thing and doing another. King decries the foul influence of “outside money” in politics, going so far in the last debate as to label the Citizens United decision as the worst Supreme Court decision in the 20th century (apparently forgetting segregation and Jim Crow decisions, among others, and that Citizens United was a 21st century case).
Yet King is, despite his whining about money, the “big money” candidate. His campaign coffers dwarf those of Summers and Dill. Any spending by outside groups against him just evens the scales.
He himself has made an absolute killing raising money in both Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. Just one of many examples of the rhetorical sleight of hand that is his campaign.
Voters smell ambition and self-interest a mile away, and as a result his balloon is continuing to lose air.
Now that this is actually a race, King’s record will continue to be exposed as a fraud through the month of October, and Summers will have a chance to actually win.
King’s best hope, to me, is to stop the phony game he is playing, standing for nothing while actually holding liberal convictions. He needs to tell the truth about who he is and what he believes and what he will do in Washington. If he does, maybe he can stop the bleeding.