Centrist Prom King: Angus is no Bernie

Centrist Prom King

by digby

I don't know if Chellie Pingree is right about this, but it is a sad comment if she is:

Pingree, after looking closely at her chances, determined that entering the race could pose too great a risk to Dem chances of holding the Senate, the Democrat familiar with her thinking tells me. Pingree did see a path to winning, and passing on the race cut against her competitive nature. But the entry of independent former governor Angus King would have meant they’d compete for many of the same voters, making a Republican victory more likely — a risk she was not prepared to take, the Democrat says.

“From the data we’e seen, there is a big correlation between people who are likely to support Angus King and her base of support,” the Democrat says. A Public Policy Polling survey found that King would beat Pingree and Republican Charlie Summers in a three way race, and notably, 51 percent of King’s supporters would want him to caucus with Dems, versus only 25 percent who would want him to caucus with the GOP.

“They tend to attract the same kind of voters,” the Dem says. “Making Mitch McConnell the majority leader could have an impact on which Supreme Court nominees could get confirmed. This was not something she was willing to put her personal ambition ahead of.”

Angus King? If you're expecting a Bernie Sanders "Independent", think again:

BRANCACCIO: You yourself were a politician, and one of the goals as a politician is to win, so you can have some effect on policy. It seems to work to take an extreme position.

ANGUS KING: Well, it's not good for the country, David, not only on the presidential level, but on the Congressional level. We're locked up. We can't deal with the really difficult, important issues. Nobody wants to tell the public what we've gotta do to get ready to meet China and India, to deal with the Baby Boomers. I mean, Social Security and Medicare are financial disasters. Everybody knows it's coming and instead of preparing for it, saving, putting money aside, we're building up enormous deficits and doing things like fighting wars that we're not paying for. You know, they talk about the greatest generation?

BRANCACCIO: Of course, World War II.

ANGUS KING: Greatest generation-- Depression, World War II. Our generation's gonna be the lousiest generation. Our grandchildren are gonna look back on us and say, "Those people were nuts. What were they thinking of." They're gonna think we're crazy.

BRANCACCIO: But, you think a politician could find an effective political strategy that would win votes from the center, so that you could enlighten the public to these important issues?

ANGUS KING: Maybe. I don't know. I think that's a really interesting question.

I, the other day, was thinking about the military and the situation that we have, and in the back of my mind I thought I remembered that Washington's farewell address spoke to the dangers of a standing army.

I Googled Washington's farewell address and read it. I was thunderstruck. It is an extraordinary document. And, he talks about the danger of public debt. He talks about-- oh, the bulk of it is the danger of party and faction, and division in the country. I mean, it's so prescient and powerful, everybody in America should read it.

We gotta get back to that point where it's, you know, you say I'm a moderate. I consider myself a pragmatist. I'm for what works. I think there is a path there not only to political success, but to trying to solve some problems.

BRANCACCIO: There's a famous political scientist out at Stanford, Morris Fiorina. He's written about the myth of a polarized America. He has some data that suggests this. But then he quotes Steeler's Wheel from 1973, "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you." That's--

ANGUS KING: That's not a bad line.


ANGUS KING: Well-- we got a political system that's, you know, struggling with Terry Shiavo and stem cell research and all that kind of thing. Meanwhile, gas prices are at $3 a gallon.

The public doesn't care whether it's a Democratic solution or a Republican solution. They want the roads fixed. They want the schools to work. They want reasonable gas prices. And, if called upon, they understand the necessity of sacrifice. I think we have become somewhat soft and self-centered. But, I think if called up and led, people will do the right thing. The American people always have.

BRANCACCIO: All right, Angus. Thank you very, very much.

I'm not sure why they haven't tapped him for whatever the Unity-12 ticket is called this time, but he'd be perfect.

He might be a little bit better than Snowe on some things, but I'd guess he'll be the perfect patsy for the wingnuts most of the time. The beauty of it for the Republicans is that he'll be put into office by Democrats which makes it all the sweeter when he betrays them. That's really half the fun.

Update: Dday has more analysis which shows that if King didn't insist on getting in, Pingree probably would have won:

Public Policy Polling did extensive polling of this race after King announced, and it showed that Pingree had a big edge in a Democratic primary and would win handily in a head-to-head matchup against all Republicans likely to run. However, in a three-way race with King, he wins 36-31-28 over Pingree and the best-polling Republican. However, check out PPP’s Dean Debham’s analysis of the race:

“Angus King and Chellie Pingree look like the early favorites in Maine,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “King will have a hard time holding onto his early Democratic support without a pledge to caucus with the party if he’s elected to the Senate.”

According to that analysis, as King faded, Pingree would benefit, and she only started out five points behind with King at the height of his announcement bounce. Pingree appears to have been scared off by the experience of 2010, where a Democrat and independent candidate similar on the issues gave away the race to Paul LePage, a Tea Party Republican. But the electorate will look far different in Maine in 2012.

It's really too bad.

Like I said, possibly better than Snowe. But a real missed opportunity for progressives and I'm not sure why I'm supposed to be happy about that. King should have backed Pingree if he wants to have more "moderation" in the Senate. It needs liberal ballast, not more centrism.

Update II: Also too, I tend to think it would be a good thing to have more than 16% of the elected US legislators be women. Call me wacky. Why is it always the woman who has to step aside?

Pingree said she talked to King several times, but she could not persuade him to not to run.