As the buzz intensifies over former Gov. Angus King's candidacy for the U.S. Senate, national and local pundits are wondering the same thing: If the independent King wins in November, who will he caucus with, Democrats or Republicans?
The caucus question is important for a number of reasons. First, it may help voters decide how they'll vote on Election Day. Second, it's generally assumed that picking a caucus helps senators gain committee assignments in Washington.
Committee assignments are important, politically and for policymaking. U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, for example, have used their assignments to help secure favorable legislation that benefits Maine constituencies, such as consideration of Bath Iron Works for defense contracts.
To this point, if elected, King isn't saying who he'll caucus with — if either party. He told the Sun Journal on Wednesday that he would make a decision after the election. The reason, he said, was that he was running as an independent and he didn't want to be beholden to a particular party.
"Nobody will be able to tell me how to vote except the people of Maine," King said Monday when he announced his candidacy.
He was asked Wednesday if he was noncommittal because a recent poll showed that he was drawing support from Republicans; declaring now that he would caucus with Democrats, for instance, may jeopardize that support in the general election.
King said he hadn’t thought of it that way. He was, he said, simply maintaining his independent status.
Nonetheless, many assume that King will caucus with Democrats. As governor, King was considered socially progressive and he supported a gay rights law in 1999.
In addition, he's supported Democratic candidates. In 2010 King endorsed U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree during her re-election bid. King even appeared in a radio spot championing the congresswoman's leadership qualities.
Filings with the Federal Election Commission show that King has donated to President Barack Obama's presidential campaigns. King donated to Obama, both in 2008 and last year when he contributed $1,000 to the Obama for America fund.
On the other hand, King endorsed George W. Bush for president in 2000.
Some Republicans already assume King will caucus with Democrats. Some believe his Senate bid was brokered with the Democratic Senatorial Committee.
POLITICO reported this week that some Republicans believe King has a "backroom deal" with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.
The DSCC has denied those rumors. However, according to the POLITICO report, some in the GOP aren't convinced.
Rob Jesmer, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told POLITICO that Democrats had "shoved aside" more liberal candidates – presumably Pingree – who faced long odds in Maine's 2nd Congressional District.