Senate polling comes and goes lately, and primary polling is even harder to get. Pollsters seem to get more attention when they make these premature Presidential general election matchups.
But we got some Maine Senate polling from PPP just in time to get wind of some possible machinations in that race. Could Democrats be clearing the way for independent Angus King?
King, the former Governor, claims it is "hogwash" that he cut a deal with Democrats for the seat, but it seems likely that he would caucus with Democrats. He's now endorsed the Democrat for President three times in a row (Obama 2012, Obama 2008, Kerry 2004), and is a "green energy" activist. It therefore stands to reason that the Democrats might not want to split their votes with him, possibly letting win a Republican like Charlie Summers (who led PPP's 7-way poll of the GOP primary 18-10) or Scott D'Amboise (who came in second in the poll).
The exit of Democrat Chellie Pingree from the race seems to support the theory, too. She had led the 3-way poll of her party's primary 52-28 over John Baldacci. However in PPP's poll of the primary frontrunners, it was a close race, with King at 36, Pingree at 31, and Summers not that far behind at 28.
What other reason might the apparently strongest Democrat have to quit so abruptly? Could it be that in that poll, a mere 4 point swing from King to Summers could give to the Republican a seat that should be an easy pickup for Harry Reid's caucus? It's hard to say.
The problem is though, it's hard for a major party not to run a candidate for an open seat. Even as Pingree quits, Baldacci might not. Even if Baldacci quits, Matt Dunlap might not.
Angus King might become another independent in the senate, in the sense that he'll have no party nomination, but caucus with one major party anyway. Or, he might split the left and give Republicans an upset victory. That's a genuine strategic problem for Democrats this year, and I don't think it's hogwash that Pingree is showing us the way the Democrats intend to solve it.