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Even a cursory look at the by-party breakdown of that Senate poll out of Maine makes a pretty strong case for why that race is both a blessing and a curse for Senate Democrats. It is a blessing for two reasonsâone, this was a race that was on absolutely nobody's target lists before the retirement of Republican Olympia Snowe, and two, it is pretty hard to envision a scenario where Obama-endorsing Angus King really chooses to caucus with the GOP. And he is the indisputable front-runner in the race.
That said, however, this election is also a major curse for the Democrats. On a basic level, King may well a betting favorite to caucus with them, but everything about the guy tells you that he'll be a thorn in the side of Democrats from the minute he takes the oath. From his embrace of the whole "NoLabels" crap (see the photo at the link to our story here at Daily Kos Elections) to the veiled threat that his choice of caucus partners may very well hinge on who is nicest to him during the campaign, this is not a guy who looks like the textbook definition of a "team player."
From a numbers standpoint, the situation could be even worse. Democratic voters in the state appear to be treating King as some kind of de facto Democratic nominee. He gets 60 percent support among Democratic voters, which more than triples up the actual Democratic nominee (state legislator Cynthia Dill, who snares just 17 percent). He does better with Democrats than Independent voters, in fact. Meanwhile, Republican nominee Charlie Summers does considerably better with his own party, snaring 50 percent of the vote to just 31 percent for King.
This poll highlights the quandary for Democrats. The aesthetics of supporting (either implicitly or explicitly) someone other than their nominee are just awful. However, if Dill does go after Angus King, and the Democrats join in that battle, it could have the impact, for all intents and purposes, of creating a general election where two perceived Democratic candidates go up against one Republican, giving said Republican a potential edge. If you doubt that scenario, I offer you just three words: Governor. Paul. LePage.
Republicans, meanwhile, are not burdened in quite the same way. Realistically, their only hope of snagging King into their caucus is to win enough seats in November to attain a Senate majority, and then count on King to conclude that he can have more clout in a Senate majority as a Republican, than in the minority as a Democrat. Perhaps his threat about his treatment being a criteria for his party choice is legitimate, but I doubt it. And, in that scenario, it will matter little if Charlie Summers (or the NRSC) take shots at King.
Plus, their best hope is for King and Dill to split the center-left and left vote in the state, allowing Summers to squeak to a win with 35-45 percent of the vote. Therefore, in an odd way, they need Dill to become a viable candidate. Getting some solid political blows in on King could serve that need.
I don't envy the Democratic hand here, even if it might save the Senate majority for them if King wins and caucuses with the Democrats. If they ignore their party nominee, a lot of progressives and base Democrats are liable to be ticked that the party shafted their nominee in favor of a "post-partisan" NoLabels soldier. But if they go for the win, they might allow the GOP to back-door their way into a Republican hold of a most winnable seat.
In other polling news...
- Here's a moment of interesting introspection in pollingâMerriman River Group, who does polling for the Hawaii publication Civil Beat, decided to poll the Democratic primary (likely to be tantamount to election) in Hawaii's open 2nd district. They were so shocked by the toplines they received, however, that they elected to poll the race again, just to make sure. They got the confirmation they wanted, and went with it. Tulsi Gabbard, aided by an early media campaign, it would seem, is now locked in a dead heat with the presumptive frontrunner, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann. The wait-and-see moment now is to see whether or not Hannemann drops some internal numbers on us to contradict the Civil Beat poll. If he doesn't, as we often discuss here, it might be a sign that the huge shift in this race is a legit one.
- Elway Research, well-established in the Pacific Northwest, brings us new numbers in that high profile open-seat gubernatorial election in Washington state. I think it is getting safer and safer to call this one a coin flip. After a few months where Republican state attorney general Rob McKenna held a clear (if somewhat modest) edge, Jay Inslee has moved this thing fairly close to all square. Additional good news: fans of this race will get another dollop of data here soon, as PPP was also polling the Evergreen State this weekend, and will be dropping new numbers here soon.
- Finally, for an interesting take on an issue that was discussed here in the Polling Wrap several weeks ago, check out the latest offering from HuffPo senior polling editor Mark Blumenthal. It looks at the Gallup poll, and makes a compelling case that the way they handle matters of racial identification might present a (slightly) skewed picture of the state of the nation. It is absolutely worth reading in full, given Blumenthal's gift for taking a fairly complex issue and presenting it in terms that even this guy (gentleman's "C" in Calculus, thankyouverymuch) can understand.