Maine GOP Senate Campaign Begins in Earnest
In the last few days we’ve seen the first debate, the first fundraising numbers, the first poll and the first television ad of the Republican primary race for U.S. Senate. What started as a scramble to get on the ballot after Senator Olympia Snowe announced she would not contest the 2012 election now becomes a scramble to quickly get attention and votes in the crowded field before the June primary.
The first debate took place in Presque Isle between four of the six candidates, part of a planned series of similar events throughout the state hosted by the Maine Republican Party and dubbed GOPforME (complete with an absolutely awful logo). A second debate was held on Friday in Augusta. No big news was made at the forums, but Charlie Summers stole a march on his opponents by announcing the support of the entire Aroostook County legislative delegation shortly before the Presque Isle event.
All candidates will be reporting their fundraising totals this week, but Rick Bennett decided to put his numbers out early, having racked up an impressive $108,000 in the space of a month.
One candidate that doesn't have to worry as much about fundraising is independently wealthy State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin. In 2010 he spent the most per vote of any of the gubernatorial candidates, finishing in 6th place out of the 7. This year he starts with a bit more name recognition (and a public office to use as a platform) and seems determined to spend big yet again. This week he launched the first TV ad of the campaign, using footage from two of his 2010 commercials.
In the ad, Poliquin tries to reframe recent public controversies, claiming that he has been attacked by "liberal Democrats" for his "conservative reforms" rather than his ethical lapses.
Poliquin came in second in a recent poll conducted by the Maine People's Resource Center (for which I work). A plurality of GOP voters in the survey said they were still undecided but among those who had a preference, Secretary of State Charlie Summers had the clear advantage. This is likely due to his high name recognition after having served in the Legislature and run for Congress twice in the First District.
For a bit of nostalgia, check out this ad from Summers' first run for State Senate in 1990.