AUGUSTA, Maine — They’ve crisscrossed the state, debated each other, participated in countless interviews and spoken with thousands of voters in person and online.
This weekend is their last opportunity to do it all again and capitalize on a final chance to persuade voters to support them as the clock ticks down to Election Day on Tuesday.
The candidates vying for Maine’s open U.S. Senate seat are planning a flurry of last-minute campaign events: rallies with supporters, visits to businesses, phone banks, Main Street tours, meet-and-greets with voters and two final televised debates Friday and Saturday nights.
Independent former Gov. Angus King plans a weekend-long bus tour while Republican candidate Charlie Summers, Maine’s secretary of state, plans business stops and rallies throughout the state. Democratic state Sen. Cynthia Dill has a schedule that includes a visit to Cape Elizabeth’s transfer station, a pre-election tradition for local elected officials, and many phone calls.
King’s three-day bus tour starts in York County on Saturday morning and wraps up Monday evening with a rally in Brunswick, his hometown. Along the way, he’ll visit college campuses in Gorham and Farmington and tour businesses and downtowns in Cumberland, Androscoggin, Franklin, Somerset, Kennebec, Penobscot, Hancock, Waldo and Knox counties. Campaign rallies in Augusta and Gray are also on the schedule.
King spokeswoman Crystal Canney said the former governor’s message for the final weekend is the same one he has had throughout the campaign.
“If elected, Angus will begin the process of breaking the Congressional gridlock that has been damaging to people across the country,” Canney wrote in an email. “He will work with both sides of the aisle, as he did when he was governor, to ensure the best decisions are made regardless of party.”
Republican Charlie Summers also has a packed schedule of campaign events during the final stretch. He was planning visits to Lewiston-area businesses Friday afternoon before a televised debate at the Auburn studios of WMTW Channel 8.
On Saturday, he’ll spend time near Scarborough, his hometown, dropping in at a Scarborough restaurant for breakfast, attending a Scarborough at Thornton Academy football game in Saco, and visiting the Maine Brewer’s Festival in Portland.
He’ll visit the Katahdin region Sunday, making stops at a church and businesses in the Millinocket area before ending the day in Presque Isle. The Summers camp plans rallies in Presque Isle, Houlton, Bangor, Augusta, Auburn, Brunswick and Scarborough for Monday.
“We really don’t expect anything to change as far as what Charlie’s talking about,” said campaign manager Lance Dutson. “From the beginning, he’s been focused on what it’s going to take to get this economy back on track.”
That mean no proposals that raise taxes on small businesses, Dutson said.
“Angus King believes getting this economy on track means raising taxes on businesses. Charlie emphatically believes the opposite,” he said. “The evolution of the message in this campaign has really come to that point of disagreement.”
King has said he supports an approach to debt reduction that includes both spending cuts and tax revenue increases. Summers has said he opposes any tax increases and has signed conservative activist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.
Dill said she plans a number of phone calls to voters throughout the weekend. On Saturday, she’ll greet voters at Cape Elizabeth’s transfer station and visit an area farmers market. On Monday, she’ll greet workers at Bath Iron Works arriving for the 6:30 a.m. shift.
“I got into the race knowing that the odds were long, but I felt I could add value to the debate and bring a voice to the challenges that middle-class voters have,” she said. “I’m the only true independent in the race. I’m the only candidate who isn’t tied to outside, large special interests and super-PACs.”
Away from the campaign trail, the candidates’ campaigns are kicking their get out the vote operations into gear, with volunteers phoning voters, canvassing neighborhoods, leaving campaign literature on doorsteps and arranging rides to the polls for voters in need of transportation.
“We’re very active in all the communities and all the college campuses,” Canney said of King’s campaign.
Dutson said the Summers camp is collaborating closely with the Maine Republican Party to turn out GOP voters. “It’s kind of a kitchen sink strategy,” he said of the get-out-the-vote operation.
Dill’s campaign is collaborating with the Maine Democratic Party and also plans phone calls, emails and other communication with its identified supporters.
Maine’s U.S. Senate campaign has been punctuated by more than $7 million in spending from outside groups, though the pace of outside spending has slowed slightly over the past week.
The Senate campaign arms for both national parties have stopped advertising in the race, and early Republican advertisers such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Maine Freedom have been off the air for weeks. At the same time, the 501(c)(4) nonprofit group Americans Elect has continued spending money in support of King and Crossroads GPS, co-founded by former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, spent $348,000 more on anti-King advertising this week.
New spenders in the race aren’t spending as heavily as their predecessors. A Georgia-based Republican super-PAC this week dispatched a mailer supporting Dill in an effort to peel Democratic support away from King and then started airing a radio ad boosting Summers. The International Association of Firefighters, which has endorsed King, came to the former governor’s aid with a $27,000 radio ad.
Dill said the Republican mailer purporting to support her was “feeding into the cynical narrative of splitting the vote, which is offensive.”