Ethan: Far be it from me to offer Republican U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Summers advice on how to win his campaign. But what was he thinking when he didn’t offer U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe absolute, unconditional, you-have-made-me-who-I-am-so-how-could-I-not-endorse-you support when she was running for re-election to the U.S. Senate?
Phil: I’m wondering the same thing. There is a long list of ways Snowe assisted Summers professionally, personally and politically. If he felt that as secretary of state he couldn’t endorse anyone for any office, he should have said that from day one. If he was concerned that endorsing Snowe would alienate him from more conservative legislators who would be voting for his re-election, in my view he still should have remained loyal to an old friend anyway.
Ethan: What’s your sense of why he betrayed her? We’ve called out independent candidate Angus King for being hypocritical regarding negative advertising, but it sure seems like Summers has some explaining to do. Here is a lifelong moderate Republican who tried to pretend he was all of a sudden a Tea Party conservative. The same Tea Party that forced his former boss to not run for re-election.
Phil: Whoa, you’re way ahead of reality. Push the pause button. Snowe was lining up early support for her re-election last winter, assuming her old friend’s endorsement was just a matter of a courtesy call. It turned out to be a shocker that he didn’t endorse her. My sense is that Summers was simply preserving his re-election prospects.
Ethan: Phil, don’t make excuses. This was a betrayal, and betrayals happen for a reason.
Phil: I’m not making excuses, just giving some context. Summers had no idea that in just a few months he would seek the U.S. Senate seat when Snowe decided to retire. At the time, he appears to have calculated that his success as secretary of state was best served by staying neutral with Scott D’Amboise, the Tea Party candidate who first sought the nomination.
Ethan: Attorney General Bill Schneider didn’t need to stay neutral. Gov. Paul LePage didn’t need to stay neutral, and he’s a card-carrying member of the Tea Party. Summers made a terrible political miscalculation, and my sense is that he had better fix it.
Phil: I do agree with you (Are we supposed to do that?) that he needs to fix it. In fact he should have rebuilt the bridge with Snowe before he announced as a candidate for the Senate. He certainly needs her support now!
Phil: Meanwhile Snowe is also in a quandary. Does she use her immense popularity to help our country by supporting Summers and perhaps change the dysfunctional Senate? Or does she watch the Democrats continue running up a $4 billion deficit every single day without a budget approved by the Congress?
Ethan: You are baiting me with your deficit and budget talk, but I will refrain from allowing you to change the subject! I certainly don’t know Snowe as well as you do, but I do think she needs to repair this almost as much as he does. She has taken a lot of heat from Republicans for bowing out so late in the game. If she isn’t perceived as doing everything possible to keep the seat in Republican hands, she may well be blamed if Harry Reid stays as majority leader. Does her Greek blood hold a grudge, or is it possible for Summers to pay for his sins by walking over hot coals and kissing the ring to earn back Snowe’s support?
Phil: Actually, I think it’s too late for that. Snowe has stated that she is going to vote for Summers. She only has so much time, and I suspect she will campaign for Kevin Raye in the second congressional district, in addition to legislative candidates who supported her in the primary. Let’s also acknowledge that Snowe isn’t able to transfer her residual campaign funds to another candidate, so it’s not like Summers was in line for her war chest.
Ethan: No, but she could do an independent expenditure for him, as the U.S. Chamber is doing. Or she could ask her donors to step up for him and contribute (she hasn’t even given Summers a contribution, but she double-maxed to Kevin Raye and Jon Courtney!). Or she could have agreed to be in an ad on his behalf encouraging independents to vote for him instead of King. Any and all of these things would have a dramatic impact on the outcome. Without them, he loses a lot of possible wind for his sails.
Phil: You would make a great Republican strategist. You’re right on. However what’s done is done. Snowe is going to work hard to support and elect Republicans this fall, in particular those who supported her. When Summers sees the results of that support, I’ll bet he wishes he did things differently.