Go, go Godzilla?
A new ad out last week by the campaign of former Maine governor and independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King features a burping Godzilla. In it, King says his rivals are trying to re-craft his record as governor and make him out to be a monster akin to the iconic Japanese sci-fi creature. Some have panned the ad for lacking details; others praised it for creativity.
It's the first attempt by the campaign to fight back against anti-King ads largely funded by a handful of super PACs with few ties to Maine, despite sporting names like Freedom Maine.
Most recently, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, another super PAC, laid down $600,000 on more television advertising.
So far these PACs, which support Republican candidate Charlie Summers and are allowed to shield their donors from the public under federal law, have spent more than $1.1 million either attacking King or "supporting" the Democrat in the race, Cynthia Dill.
Dill has made repeated complaints about the ads bought to "support" her and even said her rights to free speech are being usurped by the super PAC because they are assuming to speak for her without her permission.
In a statement issued Sept. 13, Dill attacked the attackers.
“Maine people know the truth. Maine people know that I am running as the only elected Democratic nominee, and that these cynical ads are robbing me of my voice in this campaign. The NRSC does not speak for me, it cannot muzzle my free speech and it does not speak for the Maine voters," she wrote. “Let’s tell these charlatans that they cannot ‘purchase’ the U.S. Senate election in Maine. Let’s tell them, ‘No, not in Maine. Never in Maine.’ "
Dill made her own video when the first round of ads came out.
In it, she denounces the tactic but tries to lambaste King because he's been unwilling to pick a party to caucus with if he's elected to the Senate.
It's part of a recurring campaign theme that suggests King is untrustworthy and may side with Republicans in Washington. Meanwhile, the ad "supporting" Dill shows both King and Dill to be good, Obama-supporting liberals but shows Dill to be the better choice for being more liberal than the former governor.
Republicans have maintained that the ads from the super PAC are legal and that the groups buying them have their constitutionally protected rights to free speech.
Some have speculated that the attacks keep coming because the open seat in the U.S. Senate could be the difference between which party ultimately controls the Senate.
Others have speculated that the attack ads are working because a single poll, an internal one purchased by Summers' campaign and leaked rather than released to the press, suggested King's support among registered voters had plummeted from 50 percent in June to 46 percent in August. The margin of error on the first poll was 4 percent; there was no margin of error released with the second poll.
Meanwhile, Summers' support bounced from 23 percent to 28 percent.
Dill, in her video, suggests Republicans are attempting to replicate the results of the 2010 five-way gubernatorial election, which saw Republican Gov. Paul LePage elected with 38 percent of the vote. Two independents in the race, Eliot Cutler and Shawn Moody, took 36 percent and 5 percent of the vote, respectively.
The only trouble with the theory: In the 17 polls published in 2010, LePage's support never dropped below 29 percent. In the three polls so far, Summers has yet to reach 29 percent.
LePage also saw the biggest support of any candidate in the lead-up to the election, hitting 45 percent in a Sept. 20 Rasmussen Reports poll.
So far, that's still lower than King's lowest low of 46 percent.
Interestingly, Rasmussen released six polls on the Maine gubernatorial race in 2010, four before Sept. 20.
Releases during this Senate race: None.
A spokeswoman for the agency said Friday they anticipated doing a U.S. Senate poll in Maine but couldn't say when, except that it wouldn't be within the next two weeks.
During a debate between King and Summers at a Texas Instruments plant in South Portland on Sept. 12, Summers, responding to a question on energy, said, "We haven't built a nuclear power plant in this country in 40 or 50 years, whatever the case may be, yet we have countries like France who have literally dozens of nuclear reactors."
Forty to 50 years didn't sound quite right, so I did what any good journalist would do these days and Googled it.
The last nuclear reactor built in the U.S. was completed in 1996, 16 years ago in Tennessee, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. According to the agency, another new reactor is being built at the same location, set to begin operations in 2013.
Summers may have been thinking of Maine's only nuclear plant, Maine Yankee, which went online in 1972.
It is true that France has "dozens" of operating nuclear reactors, 58 to be precise, which is 46 fewer than the 104 operating reactors in the U.S., according to information available from the World Nuclear Association.
Summers' campaign has released the first pro-candidate ad of the season with a "Meet Charlie Summers" ad. In it, Summers is introduced to the voters. He's a family man, a veteran and has worked hard to make Maine's roads safer as Secretary of State.
The spot also reminds Mainers that Summers will vote to repeal the controversial Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."
It's no Godzilla, but it does give you the sense of a hardworking family guy who has served his country and his state and would appreciate your vote.
Lewiston-Auburn-area voters will get a chance to hear from Senate candidates Monday when Dill, King and Summers square off in the first multimedia debate of the campaign season.
The debate, sponsored by the Sun Journal, the Franco-American Heritage Center, the Young Professionals of the Lewiston-Auburn Area and the law firm of Skelton, Taintor & Abbott, starts at 6 p.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston.
The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The 90-minute debate will also be broadcast on www.sunjournal.com. Online readers and viewers will be able to interact and chat with staff and the candidates via a live chat on the site.
Finally, throwing all caution to the wind and breaking all practical rules of politics, the candidates and the audience are invited to an after-debate social hour and cash bar in the Franco-American Heritage Center's reception hall downstairs.
We hope you will join us either online or in person.
Author's note: An orginal version of this story contained incorrect information. That information has been updated.