Angus King repudiates Ryanism

Angus King, the front-runner for the Maine Senate seat currently held by Olympia Snowe, has staked out positions clearly contrary to some key views of Representative Paul Ryan, the most influential Republican on widely-used federal programs.

On a webpage focused on women’s issues — focusing on a range of issues, involving women in business, welfare reform, domestic violence, reproductive rights, and elderly women — Angus King repudiates Ryanism.

While Paul Ryan favors privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher program, King says (in a speech shown on that same webpage):

I will oppose with every fiber of my being any effort to privatize Social Security or voucherize Medicare.

Or, as the website reads:

I will oppose any efforts to change Medicare into a voucher program. What we don’t need, and what I will oppose, is any effort to privatize or means-test Social Security. The program is too important to too many people to make it subject to the ups and downs of Wall Street.

Democratic Senate nominee Cynthia Dill also directly disagrees with Ryan’s views, as her criticisms of King focus on his willingness to extend the Bush tax cuts until the economy improves.

In contrast, during the Republican primary contest, Republican Senate nominee Charlie Summers said he supported the Ryan plan and endorsed Grover Norquist’s pledge to not raise taxes on anyone. Since then, Summers has backed away from those positions just a bit.

With his very strong statements in support of Social Security and Medicare, Angus King has drawn a sharp line between himself and Mr. Summers and erased a potential division on these issues between him and Ms. Dill.

Meanwhile, King’s emphasis on business and education-oriented welfare reform as women’s issues, along with reproductive rights and domestic violence, suggests a pragmatic sensibility and should preserve his strong support.

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Also worth noting:

In the Washington Post, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, previews the next wave of attacks against King from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and proclaims, “Here’s a message to the GOP from Vacationland: Maine is not lost!”

Yet the author knows so little about Maine politics that he claims that Secretary of State Summers gained his position by winning a state-wide vote in 2010. He does not realize that the holder of this constitutional office is not determined by Maine voters, but by the Maine Legislature.

As reporters Colin Woodard and John Richardson note, the Washington Post piece places a good deal of credence in an internal poll from the Summers campaign, which is being used to try to gain and maintain support from funders.

The internal poll’s numbers haven’t been validated by an independent poll, but it’s possible they’re accurate. On the other hand, a year ago the campaign manager for the Summers campaign headed a conservative activist group opposed to election day registration in Maine which put out and touted a badly flawed “poll.” A higher quality poll for a U.S. Senate seat is likely, but there seems to be the same strategic use of purported public opinion.

While the previewed attacks are likely coming, probably they will have limited impact, due to King’s issue positions, Maine’s political culture (which prizes independence and civility over negative campaigning) and the political dynamics of a multi-candidate race following the 2010 gubernatorial race.

One thing is for certain: King’s strong statement — “I will oppose with every fiber of my being any effort to privatize Social Security or voucherize Medicare” — sure doesn’t suggest the front-runner will be moving to the positions of Ryan and (sometimes) Summers.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.