Over a year ago I fretted in this space about a means by which our great nation could wind up with a president backed by the Tea Party, which at the time still seemed like a "fringe element" with positions so far out of the mainstream that there was no way they could win majority support in a general election. It turns out I may have been wrong on that point since the current Republican presidential candidate, a previously "moderate" Republican, had to move far, far to the right, into "Tea Party" territory in fact, in order to secure the his party's nomination. So the election will tell us if the Tea Party's positions are acceptable to a majority of Americans. I'm not going to try to predict the result because I told you, I stink at political punditry.
The scenario that I suggested could produce such a result appears not to be so far-fetched though, at least not as it applies to the Senatorial race here in the great state of Maine. In fact, it appears that Republicans have settled upon my conjectured scenario as the road to victory for their candidate!
There are three candidates to replace Senator Olympia Snowe, who is retiring due to her frustration with the state of politics and the resulting inability of Congress to pass any meaningful legislation. The Democrats have nominated a woman who is campaigning as a "progressive" and is widely viewed as not a strong candidate among moderate Democrats and Independents. The Republicans have offered up Charlie Summers, the current Secretary of State (favored by our Tea Party darling governor) who has taken positions in line with the Republican "base", which is to say the Tea Party. I honestly do not know which of the two would win a head to head general election. But of course, that's not the entire field running for the office.
Independent former governor Angus King announced very early on that he would run for the vacant Senate seat, and he immediately became the presumed front-runner for the office. Early polls showed him leading both of the other candidates by a substantial margin and it appeared he could actually receive a majority of the total votes cast. And in an honestly run campaign, like we used to have in Maine, that would have been the probable result. But this seat is too important - it could determine control of the Senate - for the moneyed interests behind the supposed "grass roots" Tea Party to let it be decided honestly. Angus King, it must be noted, is an Independent candidate whose views on most social issues align more closely with Democratic ideals than Republican.
Here's where the "split the vote" tactic comes in. Conservative super-pacs and interest groups with huge sums of money at their disposal have started flooding the airwaves with two types of ads simultaneously, one forcefully attacking King and his record as governor with the intent of diminishing his support among moderate voters, and one to promote the Democratic candidate to increase the support she receives among Democratic voters. The obvious goal is to split the majority of voters who will not vote for Summers so that he will wind up with a plurality large enough to win the seat. Our governor was elected with 38% of the vote and Summers' supporters are hoping to achieve a similar result through their blatant and despicable efforts to engineer an election result by influencing the way in which the majority of votes are split.
Of course I am not the only one to have noticed this and many in the main-stream media have sounded the alarm, while some have started to call on Cynthia Dill, the Democrat, to step down in light of the fact that she has not road to victory and clear the way for voters to have a clear choice between King and Summers, a scenario whereby it would in all likelihood be impossible to "buy" the election for Summers. I hope she heeds the call, preferably sooner rather that later because as long as the special interest groups think they can win by a "divide and conquers" strategy they will continue to buy time to air deceptive, misleading and dishonest ads without saying a single word about their candidate. That's not how Maine runs its elections - but it will be from now on if they manage to pull this one off for Charlie Summers.