Politics

September 20, 2012

Polls show King's lead is shrinking in Senate race

His 25-percentage-point lead in June appears to be cut in half as Republican ads erode the independent's support.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

U.S. Senate candidates, from left, independent Angus King, Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill participate in a debate at the University of Southern Maine in Portland on Sept. 13.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

Related headlines

Will Democrats rescue King's shrinking lead? Read more in political reporter Steve Mistler's Capitol Ticker blog.



The change since then appears to be the direct result of anti-King television ads that have been airing statewide for several weeks. Outside groups that hope to win a Republican majority in the Senate have so far committed more than $1.5 million for ads criticizing King's record as governor and his role as a wind power developer.

In addition to criticizing King, one of the Republican-backed ads touts Dill as "a Democrat you can feel good about," in an effort to move Democratic voters from King to Dill.

While the two polls released Wednesday match in most areas, they have two big discrepancies.

Both have King with about 43 percent support and Dill with about 14 percent. However, the Maine People's Resource Center has Summers with 28.2 percent support and Public Policy Polling has Summers with 35 percent.

That 6.8-percentage-point discrepancy is just inside the combined margins of error for the two polls -- 6.85 percent.

Mike Tipping, lead pollster for the Maine People's Resource Center, said the difference is likely due to the fact that voters could choose "other" Senate candidates in his poll and not in the Public Policy Polling poll.

The other big difference between the polls is in King's support among Republican voters.

Both polls show King's support strongest among Democrats and independents. However, the Maine People's Resource Center found that King has the support of 23.4 percent of Republicans, while Public Policy Polling says King has the support of just 13 percent of Republicans.

Public Policy Polling even suggested in its analysis of the results that King might decide to publicly declare that he would caucus with Democrats if elected to the Senate, because he no longer has strong Republican support to lose.

"The Maine Senate race is closer now than anyone really expected it to be," Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a blog post. "Angus King is losing more Democrats than he is picking up Republicans, and although he remains the favorite, a victory for him is not as inevitable as it used to be."

The Public Policy Polling survey says King's popularity has dipped along with his lead. Just over half -- 52 percent of voters surveyed -- expressed a favorable opinion of King, while 35 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

In March, according to the pollster, King had a 62 percent favorable rating and a 24 percent unfavorable rating.

King's biggest favorability drop was among Republicans, according to Public Policy Polling's blog post analyzing the results.

"If there's good news for King in this particular poll, it's that neither of his opponents (is) exactly setting the world on fire," the blog post said.

Summers' favorable-to-unfavorable ratio is 36 to 40, and Dill's is 24 to 37, according to the poll.

In the race for president, meanwhile, the polls show President Obama holding a solid lead among surveyed Maine voters over Republican Mitt Romney.

The Maine People's Resource Center shows Obama leading 53.5 percent to 37.3 percent.

Public Policy Polling has Obama leading 55 percent to 39 percent.

Neither poll was paid for by any campaign or political party, the pollsters said.

Although the Maine People's Resource Center is affiliated with a liberal advocacy group, it has earned credibility with the accuracy of past polling results, including in Portland's mayoral race last year and the 2010 governor's race.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

jrichardson@pressherald.com

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