Morning briefing 3.5.12 (King watch)

Will he or wont he?

Former Gov. Angus King is expected to announced today whether he is indeed moving forward with a bid for the U.S. Senate.

King told the Sun Journal on Friday that he would make a decision in 48 hours. 

I spoke with King at 9:25 a.m. and he said he had indeed decided, but he wasn’t yet ready to share. He added that he was trying to determine the appropriate way to get the word out.

King’s entry in the race is of keen interest to Democrats, who may be envisioning a 2010 governor’s race scenario in which their nominee falls short in the general election because King siphons moderate Democrat and independents voters. 

King acknowledged that he’d heard from some Democrats urging him not to run but only a few.

Meanwhile, some observers have begun to wonder if there’s some infighting among Republicans over who’s the best candidate for a Senate bid. Several Republican sources notified me over the weekend saying that the National Republican Senatorial Committee had dispatched staffers to help Maine Attorney General William Schneider gather signatures. In addition, Lance Dutson over at The Maine Wire pointed out that Schneider had been given access to U.S. Olympia Snowe’s mailing list (I received the same email Dutson did). Dutson made the point that the primary would see a strong turnout among the Republican base, which means that a Snowe endorsement wouldn’t necessarily help Schneider and could hurt him.

Another thing: If Snowe indeed backs a candidate, they could benefit from the nearly $4 million in campaign funds she gathered before bowing out last week. Federal Election Commission rules allow her campaign to make donations to charitable organizations and non-profits; unlimited transfers to any national, state or local political party committee; donations to state and local candidates, pursuant to state law.

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Over at the State House a few legislative committees are working Monday.

The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee is reviewing Gov. Paul LePage’s bill designed to close an ethics law loophole that has allowed state officials not to hide millions in state payments to organizations run by themselves or their spouses.

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It’s interesting to read the various takes on Snowe’s decision to drop-out of the senate race. The narrative appears to be divided in three ways: 1. Snowe’s departure underscores the bitter partisan divide. 2. Snowe’s moderate image was mythological. 3. Snowe quit because she couldn’t take the heat.

The latter opinion is held by New Hampshire’s Union Leader, the state’s largest daily newspaper and one known for its conservative bent. The paper compared Snowe’s decision with that of Judd Gregg, who bailed out of the 2010 Senate race.

In that bitter era, Gregg learned how to stand his ground while negotiating with the opposition. Although he later worked closely with Ted Kennedy as a senator, his Republican credentials were seldom questioned. In the MSNBC interview, Gregg said, “I don’t think any of us ever gave up our basic principles, but we were able to find places to reach agreement … in a way that both sides felt they were getting their basic goals.”

He knew that fidelity to basic political beliefs matters. His credibility grew throughout his career. When he retired, few senators could match his influence.

Sen. Snowe has been on Capitol Hill since 1978, two years before Gregg’s arrival. As her party listened to its voters and moved to the right, she refused to budge. She claims to be “a fighter at heart,” but regularly abandoned Republican colleagues who sought victory. She sided with Democrats on key votes from health care reform to stimulus spending. That’s not fighting, it’s shadow boxing.