Thursday September 27, 2012 | 06:42 PM

WASHINGTON -- Angus King's performance in recent polls can't quite be compared to a roller coaster, unless you're talking one of those kiddie coasters where lap bars are a formality. But it is safe to say that all of the polls show King's campaign is in motion -- and not in the direction he would prefer.

The independent candidate's narrowing lead over his major-party rivals is once again focusing national attention -- both in terms of media and ad money -- on Maine's Senate race.

On Thursday, a Washington Post politics blog suggested that King "stands out as a potential headache" for Democrats amid several weeks of positive developments in the overall race to control the Senate

The vexxing question Democrats may soon have to ask, the blog suggested, was whether to help King defend himself against the rising tide of attack ads from Republican groups? (For a more detailed analysis of potential reasons behind the influx of out-of-state money, click here.)

"It’s not unheard of for Democrats to back independent candidates — they’ve done it before with Sens. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut and Bernie Sanders in Vermont — but King hasn’t even said that he would caucus with Democrats," the Post's Aaron Blake wrote. "So would Democrats spend money to elect a guy who they aren’t 100 percent sure would be on their side in January 2013?"

The Maine Democratic Party is publicly supporting Democrat Cynthia Dill (even if polls suggest that, at present, many Democrats do not plan to do so in the voting booth). So any money spent on King would likely have to come from national, Democrat-affiliated political action committees given the shortage of deep-pocketed PACs supporting independents.

Such a scenario would certainly anger left-leaning Democrats in Maine already upset about the total lack of national support for Dill.

But the question being debated in Maine is would outside help from Democratic groups help King, whose campaign is based on his independence? Or could it help Republican Charlie Summers as his backers portray King as a Democrat in disguise and attempt to divide the Democratic and independent vote?

Stay tuned for more poll results (expected soon) and other coverage of Maine's high-stakes Senate race.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

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