If you were outside on Tuesday and could hear a distant grinding and creaking of metal, that was the big guns of Karl Rove’s political action committee slowly turning toward Maine.
For two months, super PACs have been carpet-bombing the state with negative ads designed to stop Angus King. Now, Rove is adding artillery in the form of $300,000 in new shells in one week.
You remember Rove, of course. Chief architect of that glorious Washington musical “George W. and the Texas Cowboys,” who rode into town with a cattleman’s swagger and a budget surplus, managed to get us into a war in Iraq that we didn’t need, lowered taxes on the rich to historic levels, put it all on credit cards and left town with a ballooning deficit.
Now he and his band of brothers in Washington have decided that they know what’s best for Maine — because we couldn’t possibly figure it out ourselves — and what’s best is a compliant new right-winger in the U.S. Senate whose name is give them a second to look at the paperwork oh, yes, Charlie Summers.
So Maine voters will endure more caustic attack ads from Washington painting King as someone we could hardly recognize. Rove’s ads will again argue that King left the state with a deficit, knowing full well that the state constitution makes that impossible. Good luck with that.
Two recent polls have shown King with a 20 percent lead and no movement by his opponents. Oddly, the partisan pundits around the state haven’t been talking about those polls.
When a spate of polls helpful to their candidates showed the race tightening a month ago they couldn’t stop crowing. It was like an all-night dance party.
Many reporters, meanwhile, are still describing this race as “tightening” based on those old snapshots. A month is a year in campaign time. Just ask President Obama.
The thing with negative attack ads is they have to contain some plausible truth, not go too far and have a lasting effect. The attacks on King have now failed on all counts.
They initially got some traction, out of curiosity as much as anything. That only encouraged the super PAC crowd to go overboard, firing every nebulous charge and insinuation they could imagine, all in drippingly derisive language that isn’t exactly Maine.
Now the Washington boys have fired all their best and most predictable shots and are left with nothing new to say. Karl Rove’s new attack ad, for instance, is virtually identical to ads run two months ago.
Here’s a tip for the Washington angry money crowd: Maine people have listened and watched politely, as they do, and they aren’t buying it. The more you keep this up, the greater the backlash will be.
As Will Rogers once said, sometimes you have to go out on a limb because that’s where the fruit is. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this race is basically over. The number of undecided voters is rapidly dwindling and most Mainers have locked in.
The Washington guys never imagined that Mainers were smart enough to figure this all out. I thought they really crossed the line with those fake ads for Dill.
There comes a time in many campaigns when everyone but the inner core group knows it’s over, and we’ve reached that point in the Senate race.
While it may have been an exciting circus for a few weeks, as the race seemingly tightened, the center poles of the tent have now been removed and it’s all just slowly sagging inward.
Summers isn’t going to win because people are onto him for reinventing himself as a right-wing guy, ducking debates and letting the Washington guys do his talking.
That isn’t who he is, or at least not who he was, as anyone who’s observed him through three unsuccessful races for Congress will know.
Dill, of course, just never got off the ground. She’s is a hardworking, earnest candidate, but she’s still fighting for the hearts and minds of Democratic progressives.
Her dwindling band of loyalists seem to be reduced to arguing that minor policy differences with King are more important than overwhelming agreement on the larger and more critical issues.
The best news for the candidates and the voters is that it will all soon be over. I don’t know about you, but after a few more debates and a few hundred more TV ads, I’ll be more than ready for the quiet of winter.
Alan Caron is the president of Envision Maine, a nonpartisan organization working to promote Maine’s next economy. A lifelong Mainer, a pro-growth Democrat, an author of Reinventing Maine Government and a supporter of Angus King, he can be reached at [email protected]