BRUNSWICK – It was the start of a long day of campaigning, and U.S. Senate candidate Angus King was nearly ready to go around 7 a.m. as he walked downstairs in his socks.
The 68-year-old former governor had showered, dressed and made the bed. His wife, Mary Herman, had already left their house for a dental appointment, to be followed by a few hours of work on her consulting business and then some solo campaigning.
King geared up for the day, reviewing a briefing on news and issues sent to his smartphone while he drank a glass of instant breakfast. No morning cup of coffee for him — caffeine, King said, makes him too jittery.
In the living room of the 156-year-old house, interns busied themselves after a night spent sacked out on couches or in spare rooms.
On any given night, five or six of the volunteers — called “Kingterns” by the campaign — camp out in King’s home, and on this morning they answered emails or put on running shoes for a morning jog.
King asked an aide to look up a figure for possible use in a candidates forum scheduled for that night — one of about 20 forums the six Senate candidates will have participated in by Election Day.
“At this point, we could probably all do each other’s speeches,” King said.
He went out to the car, hooked up his laptop and downloaded his email as an intern drove.
“Oh, only 253 messages,” he said, chuckling. “That’s a good day.”
The first trip of the day was to Portland, for an interview with WCSH-TV. King said he’s been putting in long days since summer to win the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.
He said the time commitment probably would have kept him from running if his daughter, Molly, was still at home. She went off for her freshman year at college a couple of months ago and, King said, supports his decision to run — for personal reasons.
“She was asked about it and said, ‘Dad needs a project, and I don’t want it to be me,’” King said.
He arrived back home around 11 a.m., with a reporter and cameraman from WMTW-TV in the driveway, along with a film crew from an independent producer of a documentary on how non-incumbents run for office at a time when campaigns cost millions of dollars.
The television interview focused on political aspects of the race, including the bombardment of negative ads. It was clear that one sponsored by Republican Karl Rove’s super PAC, accusing King of leaving a huge budget “deficit” when he left the Governor’s Office, rankles him.
He pulled out a chart showing that every Maine governor for the past generation faced such a “structural” deficit at the start of the state’s budget process, and all, including him, met the legal requirement for balancing the budget by the time it was adopted.
He found another ad, accusing him of running for his own benefit, laughable.
“One of the themes of the attack is that, ‘Angus is in this for himself,’” King said. After seeing the ad, “I turned to Mary and said, ‘Remind me again: What’s in this for me?’“
After the interview, King headed off to central Maine for an afternoon that included appearances at Thomas and Colby colleges in Waterville.
Learning that some of the Thomas students were in a public-speaking class, King slipped into professor mode — he has taught at Bates and Bowdoin colleges since leaving office in 2003 after his second term as governor.
He advised the students to step out from behind the lectern while speaking and not to read off notes.
“Might as well make a class out it,” he told them. “Maybe you’ll get some credit.”
The final event of the day was the candidates forum in Waterville. King’s schedule had called for an hour of down time before the event, but that time evaporated over the course of the day.
He said there was little need for preparation, however, given the previous forums and a format that left little time to respond to the other candidates.
But he admitted to getting nervous before the events and looked a little on edge while on stage, waiting for the questions to come.
“What sort of hurts you is some error, something you didn’t anticipate that could have large-scale repercussions,” he said.
The debate came off without any gaffes, and King got off a zinger aimed at Republican rival Charlie Summers, who suggested that economic growth would play a big role in pulling the country out of debt.
King said that suggested Summers was one of the “politicians who fall into bed with a lady called Rosy Scenario.”
After the event, King spent about a half-hour talking with supporters. Then he and Herman drove back to Brunswick alone, with aides in another car.
“This is like a date, 50 miles with my wife,” King said. “I feel like I’m going to London.”
Back home, the couple wound down as interns filtered in.
Molly made a video call from college and asked to see the family dog and cat. King set off around the house to catch them on his smartphone for Molly to see.
Herman mused about how she had anticipated dealing with empty-nest syndrome this fall — something that’s been put off for a few months by a house full of campaign volunteers.
And King reflected on why he wants the Senate seat.
“First, it’s important for the country, and second, I don’t want to let these kids down,” he said, referring to the young volunteers. “And number three, I want to beat Karl Rove.”
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: