Maine has a long tradition of sending moderate Republicans to Washington. But when Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) announced her retirement, Democrats sensed a ripe pick-up opportunity. Then former Gov. Angus King, a popular independent with close ties to Snowe, jumped into the race, and top-tier Democrats turned skittish and opted out. Republicans chose Charlie Summers, the secretary of state, as their nominee, while Democrats picked state Sen. Cynthia Dill. Most observers believe King, the odds-on favorite, would caucus with Senate Democrats, but King has refused to be pinned down, putting Democrats in a "pickle," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has declined to endorse the low-polling Dill, and it can't really endorse King, so it is putting money into ads attacking Summers. That makes King "for all intents and purposes, the Democratic nominee." But Summers is closing the once-yawning polling gap with King, and if that continues and the actual Democrat, Dill, starts rising in the polls, Maine could once again be sending a Republican to Washington.


Angus King (I)
Former governor
Age: 68

Charlie Summers (R)
Maine secretary of state
Age: 52

Cynthia Dill (D)
Maine state senator
Age: 47

The Maine race seems more strategic than ideological. Republicans have dumped more than $2 million into ads attacking King — who has spent his post gubernatorial life as a university lecturer, lawyer, and wind-energy company owner — as a wealthy, out-of-touch crony capitalist who was profligate as governor. GOP groups are also spending some money boosting Dill, with one TV ad touting her as a "Democrat you can feel good about." The DSCC and centrist group Americans Elect are attacking Summers as a conservative partisan, and boosting King, whose poll numbers have dropped amid the GOP ad onslaught. Dill is decrying all the outside money being poured into the race by her opponents and their allies. Ideologically, Dill is a liberal Democrat; King supports ObamaCare, raising taxes to erase the deficit, and a constitutional amendment to outlaw super PACs, but opposes Obama's financial reform bill; Summers signed a no-tax-increase pledge and wants to cut regulations and federal spending. 

King: 46.4 percent
Summers: 29.6 percent
Dill: 13.4 percent
(See the full data here.)

CASH ON HAND (as of June 30):
King: $503,000 on hand; $938,000 total
Summers: $119,000 on hand; $294,000 total
Dill: $29,000 on hand; $105,000 total

Outside groups have spent at least $3.9 million on the race.


Angus King: "Stakes"


Charlie Summers: "Charlie Summers Understands"


Cynthia Dill: "It's Not Godzilla; It's Alice in Wonderland"


More races at a glance:

Massachusetts Senate: Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren
Nebraska Senate: Deb Fischer vs. Bob Kerrey
North Dakota Senate: Rick Berg vs. Heidi Heitkamp
Connecticut Senate: Linda McMahon vs. Chris Murphy
Montana Senate: Jon Tester vs. Denny Rehberg
Virginia Senate: George Allen vs. Tim Kaine
Arizona Senate: Jeff Flake vs. Richard Carmona

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.