Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog
King is functionally a Democrat. He's a former Democrat and if you look at his actual policy positions it's hard to figure how he'd ever fit in the modern GOP, even in the rump New England variety. That is not to say his independent label is a fraud. It's a certain stance toward the politics of the day that transcends ideology which I respect and in many ways fits for him.
Still, caucus with the national GOP? Not likely.
Start with the fact that whatever King's politics, Maine at this point is a pretty Democratic state. Sure it's had a long run with Senators Snowe, Cohen and Collins, all Republicans. But they're so out of step with the national Republican party that it is hard to imagine them being elected from any other state. And I seriously doubt any of the three would have good odds of being elected today without the critical power of incumbency which has always counted for a lot in the state.
All that tells me that a decision to caucus with the Republicans would not be in King's longterm political interests, especially given that a unified Republican Congress next year would likely be an extremely anti-Obama one. They've been waiting for almost six years for a shot at unobstructed opposition to the President and they'll take every advantage they can in his final two years in office. Obama's diminished popularity will only encourage that.
And that's not all. What about 2016? Republicans stand a good chance of taking over the Senate this year but probably the biggest factor in that reality isn't Obama's numbers or Obamacare. It's that Democrats are defending the 2008 wave election. A lot of Dems won that year who probably couldn't have won in any other year. And this isn't just any other year. It's kind of a bad year. That means the Democrats go into the battle on a very weak footing.
But the shoe is rather dramatically on the other foot in 2016. Then the GOP is defending the 2010 wave. And a very similar electoral calculus applies.
Add the fact that whereas (low turnout) midterms favor Republicans, (high turnout) general elections favor Democrats. When you figure in that a GOP takeover in 2014 would like be by a slim margin, you can see that the odds of the Democrats recapturing the Senate in 2016 look very promising.
Does King then go back and caucus with the Democrats again?
That's why, though anything can happen, I'd take King's coy remarks with several blocks of salt. Why would King move out of step with his state, make himself look craven, when there's a pretty decent chance the Dems would be back in power in two years and he'd likely damage his prospects of reelection when he comes up himself in 2018.
I'll believe it when I see it.