The new survey from Public Policy Polling (D) of the open-seat Senate race in Maine shows that Democrats — or a Democratic-leaning independent — could pick up the Senate seat of retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.
In two-way races, both Democratic Rep. Pingree Chellie Pingree and former Gov. John Baldacci lead all potential Republican nominees, though with Pingree performing several points better than Baldacci in all cases.
In a three-way match-up of independent former Gov. Angus King — who launched his campaign Monday night — Pingree for the Democrats, and Republican state Secretary of State Charlie Summers, it is King who leads with 36% in a close three-way race, followed by Pingree at 31%, and Summers narrowly in third place with 28%.
In the cross-tabs for that trial heat, Democrats break out for Pingree 56%, King 35%, and Summers 4%; Republicans are Summers 65%, King 25%, Pingree 5%; and independents are at King 53%, Pingree 25%, and Summers 18%.
King’s respondents were asked: “If Angus King was elected to the US Senate, would you want him to caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans?” the answer was Democrats 51%, Republicans 25%.
“Angus King and Chellie Pingree look like the early favorites in Maine,” writes PPP president Dean Debnam. “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.”
With the field still taking shape, PPP tested out many candidates in a mix of two-way and three-way races. On the Democratic side, they tested Pingree, who has a favorable rating of 47%-41%, and Baldacci, whose favorable numbers are underwater at 37%-52%.
On the Republican side, their possible nominees all show pluralities or even majorities with no opinion about them: Ex-state Rep. and 2002 gubernatorial nominee Peter Cianchette, 22%-27%-51%; former Lisbon town selectman Scott D’Amboise, who had been challenging Olympia Snowe from the right in the primary, 7%-27%-65%; state Treasurer Bruce Polliquin, 14%-40%-46%; state Attorney General Bill Schneider, 6%-21%-73%; and state Secretary of State Charlie Summers, 22%-32%-46%.
But the best favorable ratings of all go to Angus King: 62%-24%. Another independent tested was 2010 gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, weighing in at 49%-27% — but yesterday, when this poll was still in the field, Cutler announced that he was endorsing King.
The survey of registered voters was conducted from March 2-4, before King had officially announced his candidacy, and has a ±2.8% margin of error.
Given his background, it is widely assumed that King might be more friendly to Senate Democrats than Republicans. After earlier career stints in alternative energy, and as host of a statewide talk show on Maine public television, he was elected governor in 1994 as an independent, and then easily re-elected in 1998. During his time in office, he focused heavily on such traditionally liberal issues as education and the environment.
Pingree has been considering the race, but has not yet officially jumped in. Monday night, when King launched his candidacy, Pingree released a statement that kept her carefully balanced on the fence:
“This is an extremely important election and a lot is at stake, including the control of the U.S. Senate. While I have been humbled by the tremendous outpouring of support encouraging me to run, I’m going to continue thinking very carefully about whether or not I should enter this race, and will take all the factors into consideration before deciding how I can best serve the people of Maine.”