From day one, Angus King has been a spoiler in Maine's U.S. Senate race to replace Olympia Snowe.
His entry into the race forced King's "good friend" Congresswoman Chellie Pingree to reconsider her next move, and to pass on the race. Chellie would have been a natural, and an easy win against Republican nominee Charlie Summers, whom she had defeated once before, in 2008 for Congress, by 55% to 45%. But, because of Angus King, it is not to be.
King says he wants to go to Washington as a moderate, to do what seasoned politician and so-called moderate Olympia Snowe could not do -- be the force for common ground in that tumultuous arena. That is his only stated reason for jumping into the race. But, in everything he has said about how he will do that, two things are clear.
One, he has repeatedly insisted that he will not decide which party, if either, to caucus with until after the election. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are assuming that he, being a nice guy and all, will of course caucus with the Democrats. But that's not what King is saying, and for the Democrats to assume that is both foolish and naive.
King is waiting until after the election to make that decision because -- presuming he's elected-- his decision depends entirely how the cards have fallen in the other 49 states. That means voters in all the other states will determine what King does next.
Which party will have the majority? Come Nov. 7, is the new U.S. Senate split down the middle, or has one party taken charge with room to spare?
Which brings us to the second thing that is clear. King is counting on the U.S. Senate to be split 49-49, with him and Vermont's Socialist/Independent Senator Bernie Sanders standing in the center aisle. Since Bernie Sanders already caucuses with the Democrats, in a split chamber, that situation would put King as the deal-maker.
And that's what he wants to be. He wants to be the deciding vote, yeah or nay. He wants to have veto power, just like he did when he was Maine's governor.
Which brings me to a perfectly logical conclusion -- Angus King is running to be Governor of the U.S. Senate.
(I personally don't think King has made the intellectual leap from being the one and only chief executive in a small-population state to being one small part, only one in a hundred, of a legislative body that is in charge of the whole country. Political science professor Amy Fried, in one of her BDN columns, noted that foreign policy positions have been oddly absent from this race.)
But what happens if, after all the voters in all those other 49 states make their decisions, the U.S. Senate chamber is not split down the middle? If one party holds a comfortable majority, King, as a self-described independent moderate, is left out in the cold. His vote, his permission, his voice, becomes irrelevant. Neither party would need him. For anything. And Maine loses.
Another odd thing about Angus King is how thin-skinned he has been, from the very beginning. The day after the Democratic and Republican primary, King challenged the other candidates to disavow any negative campaigning, by their own campaigns or by outside forces beyond their control. So, first off, we learned he was bracing for negative campaigning, and he wanted to head it off at the pass. The two party nominees, of course, declined, pointing to our Constitution's free speech First Amendment as well as the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
And then when those negative ads started being aired, in several television and radio spots funded by outside Republican organizations, Angus King freaked out. He ran a strange counter-ad, featuring the 1950s movie monster Godzilla, as he stands there insisting that the big guys on the other side are picking on him. When a second round of ads shows up, he demands that the stations pull the ads, claiming that they are factually inaccurate. The TV stations of course declined his request.
Angus King, for all his name recognition, is coming off as a newbie, an inexperienced candidate, one who is not prepared for the heat that is always found these days in the top-level U.S. Senate Campaign kitchen.
Welcome to the real world, Angus.