Nobody asked me, but here is some free campaign advice for independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King.

You want to move to Washington next year? Take another one of those RV tours now.

Not around Maine. You should go visit some national parks and whatnot out west. Maybe catch a Tom Jones show in Branson, Mo. Eat some deep-fried butter at the Iowa State Fair.

Then you could roll back into Maine in mid-October, remind people you are still on the ballot and prepare your victory speech.

Now as a service to Maine voters who have been enjoying a spectacular summer and wonder what they might be missing in the once-in-a-generation race for an open seat in the U.S. Senate – the body where the people of Maine speak with the same voice as those of New York and California, and even a small state’s senators have a chance to steer national policy and write history: nothing. Things are pretty much where they were the day after the primary, before the weather got good.

Not that they haven’t been trying. Republican Charlie Summers’ campaign did some deep digging and came up with proof that 18 years ago, when Angus King was a TV talk show host with a crazy dream, he ran a negative television ad.

Not just any ad: It was one that compared former Gov. Joe Brennan, King’s opponent that year, to the Mummy. Well, not exactly compared them, but said the Mummy did not represent change and neither did Joe.

I know. Tough stuff. Politics ain’t beanbag.

The Summers campaign is trying to send a deeper message. The campaign is hopeless unless it can prove that Angus King is not what he appears to be, and that underneath the moderate surface he’s really a liberal Democrat ready to unleash a can of socialism on you.

Step one is to paint King as a hypocrite. He says he doesn’t like negative ads but he once ran a negative ad. Therefore, he wants to ration your health care.

The biggest problem with that strategy is that people already know who Angus King is, and what we remember is not so liberal.

This is a guy who vetoed a minimum-wage bill and tried to pass pro-industry clear-cut rules in the northern forest.

Yes, when revenue started flooding into state government during his administration, spending went up. But a lot of that spending came in the form of tax cuts, including taking a penny off the sales tax and a rebate program for businesses that had to pay local property tax on new equipment. During his administration, the state government spent cash on state office renovations that would otherwise have been done with borrowed money.

No one who was around during the King administration would have called him a flaming liberal, especially not flaming liberals, who couldn’t wait to get rid of him.

That would be the case that Democratic nominee Cynthia Dill would make, if she could make a case. While the Republicans argue that King is really a Democrat in disguise, she needs to say King is really a tool of big business, disguised as a secret Democrat pretending to be a moderate.

That takes some time to unwind, and unfortunately she hasn’t been able to try. If, as the Supreme Court says, money is speech, she has been rendered mute.

Big Democratic donors are either giving money to King or sitting this race out, figuring they could do worse. Maine liberals were so badly burned in the 2010 gubernatorial race, they have no sympathy for principled losers. If a few thousand of them had voted for Eliot Cutler, Paul LePage could be telling people to kiss his butt and nobody would make a big deal out of it because he would be just another talk-radio loudmouth.

That’s why King should take a road trip and let Summers and Dill do his job. Summers can tell Democrats that King is really a Democrat while Dill is telling independents and moderates that King is really in bed with business.

The bigger question is why any of them would want to serve in the Senate, which has been turned into the gravel in the gears of good government.

The real campaign issue should be whether these candidates could keep the flow of destroyers coming to Bath when the Senate is embroiled in a filibuster over whether March should be named Goat Cheese Awareness Month.

The races that will really affect Maine are being fought out door by door, as candidates for the state House and Senate fight for votes. Will there be a check on Gov. LePage’s power in Augusta, or will he still have a Legislature that gives him pretty much what he wants?

We won’t find out until Angus King gets back from his road trip.

 

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or at: [email protected]