One part Republican Romney gloom + one part Maine Senate polls = barrage of ads

Maine has already had a flood of ads from out-of-state Republicans for the U.S. Senate race, aimed mostly at bringing down King and, to a lesser extent, bringing up Dill.  They haven’t aired any in support of the Republican nominee, Secretary of State Summers.

This is just the start, in part due to shifts in the presidential race.

Mitt Romney’s campaign is in some trouble.

Don’t believe me? Read this report on Romney staffers:

A palpably gloomy and openly frustrated mood has begun to creep into Mr. Romney’s campaign for president. Well practiced in the art of lurching from public relations crisis to public relations crisis, his team seemed to reach its limit as it digested a ubiquitous set of video clips that showed their boss candidly describing nearly half of the country’s population as government-dependent “victims,” and saying that he would “kick the ball down the road” on the biggest foreign policy challenge of the past few decades, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Grim-faced aides acknowledged that it was an unusually dark moment, made worse by the self-inflicted, seemingly avoidable nature of the wound. In low-volume, out-of-the-way conversations, a few of them are now wondering whether victory is still possible and whether they are entering McCain-Palin ticket territory.

It may prove a fleeting anxiety: national polls show the race remains close, even though Mr. Romney trails in some key swing states. Still, a flustered adviser, describing the mood, said that the campaign was turning into a vulgar, unprintable phrase.

And what happened in Maine?

Two new polls out today in the Maine Senate race show some shifts in the race. These are the first public polls released after the barrage of negative advertising.

The last public poll, in July, had King at 55%, Summers at 27% and Dill at 7%. A June poll found King at 50%, Summers at 23% and Dill at 9%.

In these new polls, Democrat Cynthia Dill went up a bit, with 14% and 15% in the two polls.

Angus King declined, with 44% and 45% in the two polls.

As for Republican Charlie Summers, the two polls had greater variation. One poll, by Public Policy Polling, presented just these three candidates and, in that one, he did better, with 35%. However, the other, by the Maine People’s Resource Center, the most accurate pollster in Maine in both 2010 and 2011, had Summers at 28%.  This latter poll included all six candidates, a question wording choice that made a difference for the results and which better represents the actual choices Mainers face.

So how are these two things related?

With Romney’s campaign facing serious headwinds, Republican donors and party leaders will start to shift money to other races.  The Senate would be a real prize and a number of seats around the country look harder for Republicans to win previously thought.

Meanwhile, the Maine race is not as one-sided as it once was. King has a good size lead but not as large as before. This makes this race a target for more national money aimed to defeat Angus King.

Democrats and many independents remain extremely wary about splitting the ticket, as occurred in the 2010 governors’ race. Dill’s gains could be erased if this scenario looks possible.

Summers has gone undefined by everyone. He’s done little to promote himself and the other candidates have not drawn out their differences with him. There’s been little attention to his support of his support of the Ryan budget and the Norquist pledge on taxes. How long that continues remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, get ready for more negative ads from out of state funders.

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.