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Friday, September 28, 2012

Washington Democrats Make a Move on Maine


Washington Democrats, after months of sitting on the sidelines, moved into the Maine Senate race on Friday with a sizable advertising buy to attack the Republican seeking to succeed Senator Olympia J. Snowe, the moderate Republican who is retiring at year's end.

The $410,000 ad buy came as the position of the front-runner, former Gov. Angus King, an independent, has seen some erosion. Washington Democrats have a difficult dance in Maine. They have avoided supporting their own candidate, Cynthia Dill, a state senator, hoping that Mr. King would walk away with the race and ultimately side with Democrats in Washington. But in recent days, that assumption has taken a hit with the rise of the Republican c andidate, Charlie Summers, in the polls.

“Charlie Summers is an anti-choice Tea Partier, who supports eliminating the Department of Education, privatizing Social Security, protecting tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and ending Medicare as we know it,” said Guy Cecil, a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee executive, delivering a cookie-cutter broadside as the committee announced that its first round of attack ads will air between Oct. 2 and Oct. 12.

Republicans have been slyly playing two sides in the race, attacking Mr. King to bring down his once-stratospheric approval ratings and goading the committee to support Ms. Dill. They believe if Mr. Summers can simply run even with Mitt Romney on Election Day, other Mainers will split their votes between Mr. King and Ms. Dill and the Republican can win with a plurality. That strategy carries risks. Mr. King has refused to say which party's leader he would back if elected, but has warned that he will remember which side attacks him in the race. So far, only the Republicans have.

Two recent polls show the Republican strategy may be working, but they aren't there yet. Mr. King has maintained a lead in the high single digits or low double digits.

But the yawning gap he once had is narrowing.

In a stretch when most of the news on Senate elections has had a distinctly Democratic tilt, Republicans are happy about one bright spot for them.

“It's remarkable to see national Democrats now spending money in a state where they refuse to even endorse their own nominee,” said Rob Jesmer, the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Now that they are spending almost a half-million dollars in Maine, the D.S.C.C. should make clear who they are supporting â€" the Democratic nominee or the candidate that the state Democratic Party chairman said today cannot be trusted.”