Too clever by half in Maine? [Updated]

So, it turns out I live in Maine.

Those of you who have been wondering where I could possibly reside after I have so cunningly concealed this information since starting this blog, now you know.  I decided that I should just go ahead and spill it because:

1)  A reasonably intelligent second-grader could have figured my whereabouts out by now, what with how half-assedly I’ve tried to obscure them.

2)  The only reason I bother with a pseudonym in the first place (to which, I must admit, I have now grown attached) is to make it just slightly more difficult to draw lines between my identity, my opinions, and the places where I work. Since I imagine very few people at those latter institutions actually care all that much about what I say, extraneous subterfuge is more annoying than useful.

3)  I wanted to write something specific to Maine politics, and so either I could write some idiotic cock and bull story about why I was interested, or I could just say that I live here.

So I live in Maine.

Anyhow, I wanted to write about our three-way Senate race.  Right now Independent candidate and former governor Angus King is in the lead, though his lead seems to be eroding a bit.  (He is my preferred candidate, and I still think he’s likely to win.)  Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill are the other two in the race.  If there is any competition to be had, it will be between King and Summers.  Dill’s candidacy was DOA before it was announced.  (Pretty much every prominent Democrat in the state declined to run once King announced.)

Which is why it struck me as odd when I got a mailer from the Maine Republican Party yesterday attacking Dill as “too liberal” for Maine.  Why would they bother spending money on attacks against the candidate who is all but sure to lose?  (Of note, there is no mention of the actual Republican candidate in the mailer.)  The glossy little flyer listed reasons she is too liberal, among them that she supports marriage equality (their words) and is a sure-fire vote in favor of the Obama agenda.  All of this seemed very strange at first reading.

First of all, why would they use the term “marriage equality”?  Why not “gay marriage,” which is a much more polarizing phrase if one is trying to reach out to voters who don’t care for the gays.  “Marriage equality” is the phrase our side uses to frame the debate.  Have they just ceded the rhetorical battle on this one?  That would seem like a big victory indeed.

And why would they seek to link Dill to Obama when he is a lock to win the state, and polls roughly 15 points ahead of Romney?  Tying herself to his popularity is one of the few chances she has of getting any votes at all.  Why would the Republicans try to use that angle to attack her?

All of this is to say that I don’t think that was really an attack mailer.  I think it was meant for voters like me, who do support marriage equality and Obama’s agenda, but are planning to vote for King.  (For the record, he supports marriage equality, too.)  I think those sly, sly Republicans are trying to get liberal voters to vote for Dill, thus siphoning their votes away from King.  Dill isn’t a threat to their candidate at all, so they can back-handedly tout her liberal bona fides without doing any real damage to their candidate’s chances.

That’s my theory, at least.  I don’t think it’s going to work, mind you.  I’m skeptical of any campaign premised largely on tearing down the other guy without making a positive case for its own candidate.  I also think liberal voters are pragmatic, and know that their vote for Dill would merely get the Republican elected.  We had a similar problem two years ago, when the Independent and Democratic candidates for governor split the progressive vote, and we got saddled with an immediately unpopular tea-party Republican governor.  Nobody wants to see that scenario repeated, even if Summers seems like exactly the kind of sane Republican I would consider voting for if it didn’t mean Mitch McConnell would inch that much closer to being Majority Leader.

I think the Maine Republicans are being too clever by half.  But who am I to tell them how to spend their money?  I’m just a guy who won’t be voting for them anyway.

Update:  Thanks to commenter cfpete, who linked to this analysis in the Portland Press Herald, which comes to the same conclusion I do.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. “If there is any competition to be had, it will be between King and Summers. Dill’s candidacy was DOA before it was announced. (Pretty much every prominent Democrat in the state declined to run once King announced.)”

    So you’re saying Dill is in a pickle.

  2. I tend to agree with your assessment. It reminds me of H. Ross Perot’s campaign – which cost Bob Dole the popular vote. In this case, let them shoot themselves in the foot.

    As an aside, I’ll wave over at you next time I’m in NH 😛

  3. All this time I thought you were in the Boston suburbs. I feel so… so… so used!

      • And I thought my (old) commute was bad! Unless you’re… well, I won’t go giving away more info about your secret whereabouts. But I think I’ve vacationed close to you.

        • That wouldn’t surprise me in the least. I live in a very popular vacation destination for people in the Boston area.

          And my office is north of the city, so the commute isn’t too terrible. Between 45-60 minutes, depending on traffic.

          • Well, that is because Boston people think that it is normal to visit beaches with ice cold water so going up ’round them parts with super ice cold water didn’t seem quite so crazy.

    • Next we will find out that he looks completely different than his avatar.

  4. A three way race like this screams for a change to the voting rules to allow ranked voting – it should be unacceptable to the people of Maine that they could get their 3rd choice because they are split between two other attractive candidates. Or even their 2nd choice. It’s just too important and too easily fixed. Come on people, let’s do the easy stuff at least!

    If a state like Maine cannot get this done, what hope is there for a nation of 300m?

  5. Maine??? You mean you’ve been feasting on endless torrents of cheap lobster all this time? I’m consumed with envy!

    I am not sure if I’ve mentioned it to you before but my Canadians raising grounds are in Nova Scotia just across the bay from Maine.

    • We eat lobster in ridiculous amounts during the summer. We can get it, quite literally, right off the boat by walking a quarter of a mile from our back door.

      • I am consumed with an unpleasant combination of resentment and hunger. Hungersentment? Remunger? God(ess?)damn it I want some lobster!

      • Maine is where I learned that it is possible to enjoy more than one lobster at a sitting. I mean, I knew that two lobsters would taste even more delicious than one, but I didn’t know enough lobsters existed on the planet for even one person to have a double helping.

          • Do you know how many miles seafood (narrowly defined not to include riverfood and lakefood) has to travel to get here? I thought when we moved out here that I would miss the Mexican food. The Mexican food is actually quite good. It’s the seafood.

          • FOB lobsters? I didn’t realize Maine was on the forefront of the immigration debate.


          • My cousin has a lobster boat berthed in Dover.

            It’s a shame I hate seafood, but my mother makes out like a bandit.

          • My Grandfather was a lobster fisherman in Nova Scotia. I can vividly remember, I kid you not, wrinkling up my twelve year old nose and groaning “Lobster again?!?”

            My thirty two year old self wants to go back in time and give my twelve year old self a whuppin.

  6. Great post, as always.

    The only thing I can think of to explain this is force of habit. You’re a Republican election campaign, and so you attack the Dem for being “too liberal” because, well, that’s really all you’ve ever done, and it feels so comfortable that you make excuses inside your own head for why it’s really the smart move.

  7. A partially off-topic comment on King. He was one of two notable independent governors a few years back, the other being Minnesota’s Jesse, “the body/mind” Ventura. The difference between them was that Ventura ran against both parties, whereas King ran against partisanship. Asa result, Ventura wasa lonely governor fighting a legislature that was hostile to him on both sides of the aisle, while King was able to effectively work across the aisle. Ventura was smarter and a better governor than a lot of folks expected, but King was a lot smarter and even more effective.

  8. As a fellow Mainiac, (not the balmy southern coast, the rugged western mountains), I agree with your assessment on the GOP-backed Dill adds.

    She’s been rising in the polls since the DNC; so sending more votes her way could give us another LePage victory. And I’d really like to make that a verb, as in “Summers hopes to LePage his way into the Senate.” Divide and Conquer.

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