Voters left, right and center generally agree that Washington is broken, paralyzed by partisanship and incapable of fixing itself. Indeed, more than three-quarters of Americans disapprove of Congress’ job performance.

It’s a rare point of unanimity in our national body politic.

Yet for all the voter discontent with the system and its contaminant gridlock, the “sensible center” has failed to rise.

The total collapse of Americans Elect is emblematic. This group intended to eliminate the partisan duopoly in the presidential nominating process by securing ballot access in every state for an independent presidential candidate. It succeeded in only 27, and its online national primary failed to attract both credible candidates and widespread interest.

Why? Because voters don’t mobilize around matters of process. They don’t care how the proverbial sausage gets made; they just want candidates and elected officials to get on with it and get things done.

It’s a candidate’s ideological orientation and his or her stance on policy issues that motivate voters to actively support or oppose a candidate, volunteer their time, make a donation and cast their vote.

Yet independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King is basing his campaign on a process argument.

King’s essential hypothesis is that Congress is so broken that it cannot address critical national issues, thereby making the operation of Congress the pre-eminent national issue.

It’s a captivating line of academic reasoning well suited to the Distinguished Lecturer at Bowdoin College.

But can a newly minted junior senator from Maine, possessing neither seniority nor a party in an institution that prizes both, actually correct the Senate’s dysfunction? Can appeals to fixing the rules and procedures of the Senate — obscure matters like filibuster reform — carry more weight with voters than job creation and economic revitalization?

Let’s take these questions in order.

If anyone was potentially capable of producing key Senate reforms, Maine’s retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe seems a worthy candidate. She possessed seniority, relationships, respect and political capital. But Snowe was so stymied by the dysfunction of the institution that she chose to retire rather than quixotically pursue reform from within.

President Obama also promised to change the hyper-partisanship and pettiness of Washington. Despite possessing the world’s largest bully pulpit, a grass-roots army of supporters, a strong cult of personality and an initial wave of good will, the president was nearly powerless to effect any significant change in the way Congress comports itself.

I maintain a healthy skepticism that any individual senator possesses the requisite force of personality, political skill and gravitas to restructure the well-worn rules and deep traditions of the U.S. Senate. Candidates claiming they can deliver such reforms are either arrogant or naive.

But King is demonstrably neither.

The fundamental rationale for King’s campaign boils down to this: If we send a senator to Washington aligned with either party, we virtually guarantee the status quo endures. Send King to Washington and he has a chance — however slim — to be a catalyst for change and the tip of the spear for broader reform.

A bumper sticker it is not. But it is a surprisingly forthright acknowledgement that King’s candidacy represents only a glimmer of reformist possibility.

In a typical, highly competitive U.S. Senate race, King’s wonky, process-oriented message would be a nonstarter, dwarfed by pressing economic and social issues.

But this is not a typical U.S. Senate race.

King has the unusual — even remarkable — luxury of high name recognition, high voter favorability and an almost mythical personal appeal that together are likely to secure his election with nary a bump or bruise.

A recent Portland Press Herald poll gives King a 28-point lead over his rivals, with only 9 percent undecided. While the race will tighten as Charlie Summers and Cynthia Dill introduce themselves to the broader electorate, money is spent and contrasts are drawn, it’s very hard to see how King’s major-party challengers close the gap and create a truly competitive race.

In other words, King can make a process argument for his candidacy precisely because voters appear content to simply bask in their still-warm memories of this charismatic, Harley-riding former governor and his administration. His policy positions, thus far at least, matter little.

Dill, Summers and the other candidates will attempt to temper the hue of voters’ rose-colored glasses and force King to stake out ideological and policy positions — not the least of which is whom he might caucus with — but their task may be just as impracticable as King’s own attempt to remake the Senate.

Moreover, the less specificity King offers on policy matters, the less opportunity his opponents have to offer sharp contrasts and critiques. Indeed, given his standing in the polls, King could simply play it safe, say little and run out the clock until Election Day.

That approach may well win King a U.S. Senate seat, but it would be a disservice to Maine voters who have come to expect big ideas from the former governor and deserve to hear his policy prescriptions for solving some of the most intractable challenges likely awaiting him in the U.S. Senate.

He assures me those policies are forthcoming. But in the curious case of Angus King, they may not be necessary. Process and personality are likely to carry the day.

Michael Cuzzi is a former campaign aide to President Obama and other Democratic candidates. He manages the Portland office for VOX Global, a strategic communications and public affairs firm located in Portland. He can be contacted at:

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Twitter: CuzziMJ