King of Maine

So former two-term indie governor of Maine, Angus King, threw the race to succeed Sen. Olympia Snowe into some disarray by announcing his candidacy, running again as an independent. According to conveniently timed polling from PPP, King runs ahead of any proposed configuration of Ds and Rs, even defeating the most popular Democrat, Rep. Chellie Pingree, whom Maine Democrats and progressives nationally had been encouraging to run.

Pingree is a close friend of King’s, and may well not run (if she’s going to, she needs to get a move on to collect signatures to get on the primary ballot; the deadline is March 15).

For Democrats, King is a mixed blessing. He’d likely smoke any Republican in the field if he were to receive open or not-so-open Democratic backing. He’s a social progressive. He endorsed Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008 (after backing W. in 2000). DSCC Chair Patty Murray did not rule out the possibility of Democrats eventually supporting him, though you’d have to guess he’d first have to promise he’d caucus with Democrats.

Haunting these deliberations is the memory of 2010, when Tea Party Republican Paul LePage sneaked into the governor’s mansion with only 38% after Democrat Libby Mitchell and independent Eliot Cutler split the liberal-moderate vote. That was a light-media midterm election, but still, you have to figure Democrats will do whatever it takes to keep that scenario from recurring, particularly if they can get assurances from King that he won’t betray or torment them in office. Barring that, they really need Pingree to run.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.