Maine Sen. Angus King, one of the two independents who vote with Democrats to organize the Senate, dropped a political bombshell Thursday afternoon when he hinted that he might switch sides and caucus with Republicans following the elections this fall.
Perhaps just as surprising as the possible "switcheroo" floated by King was the warm response his suggestion received from more conservative Republicans in Maine and in Washington.
The former governor of Maine, who won both his terms in the statehouse and his Senate seat as an independent, takes liberal stands on most issues and clearly has more in common with Democrats than Republicans.
But when asked by The Hill about a possible switch in the party he will caucus with during the next Senate session, King replied: "I'll make my decision at the time on what I think is best for Maine."
"More power to him," former Republican Rep. James Longley Jr. of Maine told Newsmax shortly after King's statement sparked speculation he would support Republicans in controlling the Senate next year.
"He has every right to do what is best for his state."
Longley, who was the last Republican to represent Maine in the House in 1994-96, said claims that King was a "secret Democrat" are exaggerated.
He noted that the senator "has a business background and often takes pro-business positions. What started the talk about him caucusing with the Republicans was his vote last week against the pay equity bill strongly backed by the White House and Senate Democrats," which supporters say would ensure pay equity between men and women but which many business groups opposed.
Longley's assessment of what King will do carries particular meaning. His late father, James Longley Sr., was the first independent to be elected governor of Maine and served from 1974-78.
Like King, the elder Longley was a successful businessman who governed with support on different issues from different members of both major parties in the state legislature. His one notably partisan act was endorsing Republican Gerald Ford for president in 1976.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told Newsmax that "Sen. King has probably seen polling data that shows Republicans taking control of the Senate. So what do you think his reaction will be? That's the only way he would make the comment he did."
As for the fact that King doesn't always vote the conservative line, Norquist said: "A national party grows by bringing in people of all views. Most importantly, if he does what he hinted at, he would be voting against the Democrats for control of the Senate and joining our leadership team."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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