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.