Tuesday September 04, 2012 | 11:38 AM

It's always interesting to hear what the national power brokers say about Mainers and our U.S. Senate race. It's even more interesting to hear what they really think.

Sheelah Kolhatkar at Bloomberg Businessweek sat in a strategy meeting during the Republican National Convention and then wrote about the candid comments of some top GOP strategists and fundraisers. Among them was Karl Rove, the former deputy chief of staff and political adviser to Pres. George W. Bush and a founder of one of the richest Republican super PACs, American Crossroads.

Rove gave his realistic assessment about control of the Senate hinging on a handful of key races. The GOP is counting on winning at least three of four in Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Virginia, for example. Rove mentioned Maine as a kind of secondary battleground state, but he had a couple other interesting observations about Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and about Portland.

Here's an excerpt:

An exception to Rove’s Senate optimism is Maine. Retiring Republican Senator Olympia Snowe is, “still sitting on $3 million in hard money,” Rove said. “She’s going to use the money, her husband told me, for charitable and philanthropic efforts.” He looked around the room. “So if any of you gave her money, I would call and ask for your money back. If you do, give it to Charlie Summers, our Republican candidate.”

Rove said that Summers was elected to a traditionally Democratic seat in the State Senate from Portland, which he said, "is sort of like Portland, Oregon, only they’re somewhat nicer and don’t smoke as much dope.” Summers actually served the Portland suburb of Scarborough, but he was close.

Rove said the GOP needs either Summers or Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., to win. "We can’t afford to lose both,” he is quoted as saying. “If we win both, we’re in great shape. If we lose one, it starts to get a little bit edgy. If we lose two, we’re in real difficulty.”

While Rove gave a somewhat cautious assessment last week, The Hill reported today that  Democrats are increasingly optimistic about keeping control of the Senate.

The article only briefly mentions Maine, saying "Democrats are counting retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat in Maine as a probable gain." That is because they continue to believe independent frontrunner Angus King will win and caucus with the Democrats, although King has denied making any promises.

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Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.

Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @stevemistler

Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
Eric can be reached at 791-6344 or erussell@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @pphericrussell

Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
Matt can be reached at 791-6303 or mbyrne@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH

Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or rbillings@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @randybillings

Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc

Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or mshepherd@centralmaine.com
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME

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