Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Unreal politics

                                                                                                        CANCUN, Mexico —

So what’s going on with Maine’s U.S. Senate race? There wasn’t much new when I Googled this morning, and the filing deadline is just a day away.

I’m amazed at the timidity about an open seat in the most exclusive club outside of Augusta National.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, for example, stood to lose next to nothing if she ran. She’s the junior congresswoman from a small state and the member of a minority party. She is well spoken and can deliver constituent services, and that may be very important to her, but in Washington she has the same clout Aung San Suu Kyi has in Yangon. Maybe less, actually.

Was she afraid of losing to the independent candidacy of former Gov. Angus King? I would not have thought so.

What about Rep. Mike Michaud?

With former Gov. John Baldacci passing up the race, you have to figure he's done with elective office.

That leaves Secretary of State Charles Summers yet to make up his mind, if indeed he has not. I can't imagine him passing up the race, unless he figures he can bide his time and wait for a better opportunity.

But what better opportunity than this?

King was a popular and practical governor known for laptops for kids and the rainy day fund. But squirreling away money in the late 1990s was no big deal: if you had a 401(k) you probably thought you were the next Warren Buffett.

Independents are OK in the Blaine House, but the U.S. Senate is another story. If it’s an exclusive club it’s also a bastion of two-party politics.

Kings says he’d be the most popular girl at the prom when key votes were on the line, but he’d more likely be regarded as a coy mistress. The reality is that he would caucus with one party or the other or bring new meaning to the term irrelevant.

Connecticut’s Sen. Joe Lieberman ran as an independent to keep his seat after losing the Democratic primary in 2006. He caucused with the Democrats, who rewarded him with a committee chairmanship. He thanked them by supporting John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008. He’s not been heard from since and is not seeking re-election.

That’s not what Maine needs.

Maine is not California. It does not have a battalion in the U.S. House with which to make its way. Nor is it especially productive. Maine need senators who will work within the system to represent Maine’s economic interests.

Yet with Thursday’s deadline looming no Democrats have filed papers. The conventional wisdom is that having King and a Democrat in the field would clear the path for the Republican candidate, who as of now is Scot D'Amboise.


As a result, conspiracy theorists say, a deal has been cut that will see King become a Democrat after the election.

But the conventional wisdom only goes so far. Bill Clinton became the Democratic nominee in 1992 because more seemly Democrats viewed President George H.W. Bush as unbeatable after the Gulf War.

Which leaves only one question. If I start up the beach in the direction of Punta Cancun and ask every fifth sunbather who will win Maine's U.S. Senate race, how far will I get before the policia drop a net over me?

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