As more time passes in the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: Democrat Cynthia Dill is the only hope Mainers have of defeating independent Angus King.
Not because she is a threat to win, of course. I’ve noted since the beginning that Dill will be coming in last in this race and by a rather substantial margin.
But with the national Democratic establishment, including the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, taking a pass on supporting their nominee, instead of counting on King’s eventual caucus vote for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrats of all stripes in Maine have abandoned Dill and are instead looking to King.
Which tells us something important: Every percentage point that Dill can wrestle away will undoubtedly chip away at King’s lead. But back to her in a moment.
A new poll from Moore Consulting this week showed that King’s lead over Republican Charlie Summers has been cut from roughly 30 percent down to 18 percent and that he is now pulling less than 50 percent of the vote statewide. The full results were King at 46 percent, Summers at 28 percent and Dill at 8 percent.
There is no question that the sustained public vetting that King has been receiving by the Chamber of Commerce and the Summers campaign has had an effect. Some of the shine has worn off King, and voters are treating him more skeptically.
The main beneficiaries of this drop in favorability and support has been, at least to this point, mostly no one. Summers has seen a marginal increase in his support, but by and large the people now turned off by King have become undecided voters and will be paying attention the the rest of the campaign to make their ultimate decision.
Dill’s numbers, however, have not climbed at all, which would seem to suggest that King’s drop in support has thus far been focused around moderates and independent leaning voters, rather than Democrats.
Were these people liberals that had suddenly soured on King, they likely would have moved their voter intent over to the Democratic nominee. Were they Republicans, they would have likely moved over to Summers more than what has happened.
This all means that most of the movement in the race has been in the center and that the Democratic Party is still behind King, viewing him as a de facto vote for a Democratic nominee.
King is left with a substantial lead, to be sure, but it is a dangerous one.
For Summers to have a realistic shot at being The Anointed One, two things (both difficult) need to happen.
First, he needs to make sure that the moderate voters who have soured on King end up in his camp. This is something Summers can undoubtedly accomplish, as King continues to look increasingly like a disingenuous agent of the status quo, who simply spouts off focus group tested rhetoric about gridlock and independence without having anything even resembling an actual plan to address the poison in the swamp of Washington.
More importantly, though, Summers needs Dill to be able to separate some of those Democrats from King. If she can somehow get her level of support up to the paltry level that Libby Mitchell received in the 2010 gubernatorial election (19 percent), she will pull 10-12 percent of King’s total into her column.
If Moore Consulting’s numbers are correct, that kind of a shift would put King into the high-thirties or low-forties, which is exactly what Summers needs to have a shot at winning.
The question remains, however: What would cause a Democrat who is currently supporting King to leave him and turn to a candidate who is not a serious contender in any way? Dill has no money, no institutional support, no realistic chance of even placing second and is on the far fringes of the Maine left.
That is a tall order, when King is (rightly) viewed a guaranteed caucus vote for the Democratic Party and a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama.
In the end, it will all come down to Dill. If she can’t at least match the lowest statewide total for a Democratic nominee in the last 14 years, we will have to listen to King drone on about gridlock while doing nothing to change it for six years.
Here’s to your hopeful “success,” Dill.