Days before Election Day four years ago, Maine’s popular former governor and now U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent, endorsed fellow independent Eliot Cutler in his bid for governor. Cutler came up just short when the votes were tallied, amassing 36.7 percent support to Republican Paul LePage’s 38.1 percent, and King’s endorsement was seen as an event that helped Cutler nearly win.
“We need someone who can bring people together. It’s going to be almost impossible to get through what we are facing if it’s all going to be partisan,”King said at the time. “He’s a really smart guy. He has thought about these issues as deeply as anyone I have ever encountered in Maine.”
Cutler returned the favor in 2012 to King, endorsing his bid for Senate.
“I have had several long conversations with Angus King during the past week, and I hope that he will run for the U.S. Senate,”Cutler had said. “He would bring to the Senate the independence, the abilities, the reputation and the disposition that will make him a great senator, that will serve us Mainers well and make us proud every day.”
So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know King – who continues to be one of Maine’s most popular pols – will likely come out to support Cutler in his current gubernatorial bid.
A source told me it that will take place Monday, though Cutler’s campaign didn’t respond to my request for comment. Other news outlets are hearing the same.
Regardless of when it comes – Monday, next Monday or the Monday before Election Day – a couple things are clear.
King’s endorsement in Maine politics means about as much as any can. I’m not inclined to think many people choose who they vote for based on someone else’s opinion (including that of newspaper editorial boards), but rather on the merits of information they’ve gathered or come across: what are their positions on the issues, do they feel trustworthy, what’s their life experience? King’s support, taken along with other factors, can easily help a voter reach a conclusion.
King and Cutler both share common principles on a lot of issues, not the least of which is the need for a centrist voice in our current two-party system of politics. In our hyperpartisan world, both men would say good ideas on both sides are getting needlessly short shrifted. A leader unencumbered by partisan baggage can spend more time using common sense rather than paying back political favors.
But the bottom line is, Cutler’s campaign needs a jolt. He’s not seen as a legitimate contender right now, despite his 2010 showing, because while his opponents – Democrat Mike Michaud and Republican Paul LePage – are duking it out atop the polls around 40 percent each, he’s stuck at about 16 percent, according to a polling summary by RealClearPolitics.
Banking on a last minute surge as happened four years ago isn’t for the faint-hearted or good strategy. An endorsement by King is a card that must be dealt and it makes the most sense to play it sooner rather than later this time around.