Two of Washington’s most powerful Republicans appear to be divided about whether to put their money into winning Maine’s Senate seat or Missouri’s.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., leads the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has raised millions of dollars for conservative Senate candidates. DeMint told The Hill that it could make sense for the party to back Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., if Akin decides to stay in the race for that state’s Senate seat.

Akin is the conservative congressman who was urged to drop out of the Senate race after dismissing the need to allow women who have been raped to undergo abortions by saying that women’s bodies can prevent pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” Akin has until Tuesday to step aside for a replacement candidate, but it doesn’t look like he will.

DeMint told The Hill that he may support Akin despite the “mistake,” in hopes of winning a Republican majority.

“I think we need to take every Republican candidate around the country and do what we can to elect them,” DeMint said.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, meanwhile, is chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which also has pumped millions of dollars into Republican Senate campaigns. The committee pulled out of the Missouri race after Akin’s comments and has since focused resources on the Maine race. A win in Maine by Secretary of State Charlie Summers could keep hopes of a Republican majority alive without winning Missouri.

The NRSC is spending $600,000 on ads in Maine criticizing the independent front-runner in the Senate race, former Gov. Angus King. Cornyn also has dispatched experienced staffers to Maine to help Summers. Two polls released last week say King is running 8 percentage points and 15 percentage points ahead of Summers, a substantial lead but significantly smaller than it was in June.

DeMint told The Hill he hopes Cornyn reconsiders Missouri, effectively arguing that Akin has a better chance than Summers based on the latest polls.

“I’m going to look at the (Missouri) race and I would encourage John Cornyn to look at all races where Republicans have a chance to win,” DeMint said. Akin, he said, “is certainly within striking distance.”

The NRSC appears to be sticking to its Maine strategy, however. Cornyn told The Hill that Akin won’t get the NRSC’s support.

“We’re done,” he said.

Health group supports Question 1

The Maine Public Health Association announced Friday that it supports Question 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot, which would allow the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“The link between positive health indicators and the ability of same-sex couples to wed has been well documented,” Tina Pettingill, executive director of the group, said in a statement. “Because of this scientific link, MPHA supports voting Yes on One this November.”

The group referenced three studies — two from 2006 and one from 2009 — as evidence that it’s beneficial to same-sex couples to get the same type of legal recognition as other couples. The studies were published by the Journal of Counseling Psychology (2009); the Oxford University Press (2006) and Pediatrics (2006).

The Maine public health group cited the Pediatrics article for indicating that children also would benefit if their same-sex parents married.

“Passing Maine’s marriage equality law would benefit children raised by same-sex parents, specifically around their parents’ rights to adoption, hospital visitation, health insurance and family leave,” the group writes. “Enacting these benefits would improve the quality of life for thousands of same-sex couples and their families in Maine.”

Opponents have said they are worried about the impact of same-sex marriage on children, citing different studies to back their beliefs. A recent fundraising appeal headlined “Our Children Will Suffer” references “a wide range of social science data” that shows “children do best when raised by their married mother and father.”

“Please, do not leave the future of our children and grandchildren up to the selfish desires of radical activists who want to destroy the traditional family and make marriage a genderless institution,” the email states.

Slipping polls hurting King?

Two polls released Wednesday show that independent King’s once-commanding lead in the U.S. Senate race is withering. A survey by Public Policy Polling puts King’s lead in single digits, while another, by the Maine People’s Resource Center, has King up 15 points.

The big difference between the two polls is in the support for Summers. MPRC has Summers at 35 percent, PPP has him at 28.

The variance could be because PPP didn’t ask respondents about the three other independents in the race: Andrew Ian Dodge, Danny Dalton and Steve Woods.

Regardless, Democratic sources say the PPP results track closely with internal polling recently conducted here that show King is slipping.

Which brings us to the question of the day: Will national Democrats help King?

The party has already put itself in a difficult position by essentially deferring to King and keeping its best-known candidates out of the race. They gambled that King would win and that he will vote with Democrats on most issues.

Given the high stakes of the Maine race — potentially control of the U.S. Senate — it may seem that Democrats would have little choice but to intervene on King’s behalf. Doing so could be tricky and risk further alienating Democrats loyal to the party nominee, Cynthia Dill.

Heavy-handed Democratic interference could also erode King’s support among Republicans.

Nonetheless, Wednesday’s polls indicate that the outside groups attempting to influence the race may be having an impact. Those groups have spent more than $1.5 million attacking King, promoting Dill or lumping the two candidates together.

The success of the ads could be an incentive for Democrats to start attacking Summers, whose policy positions on wealth distribution, tax policy and the environment closely mirror those of other Republican congressional candidates currently weathering Democratic criticism.

Summers has the benefit of organizational support from national Republicans and the traditional backing that comes from belonging to one of the two major political parties. In addition to the ads by outside groups, Summers has been able to let the Maine Republican Party handle broadcasting opposition research that questions King’s record and business dealings.

King, meanwhile, has vowed not to run a “negative campaign.” He doesn’t have the backing of a proxy organization. His victory is dependent on the performance of his campaign — a campaign that critics have said has been too passive and overly reliant on the former governor’s popularity and charisma.

Such realities may convince Democrats to intervene. Or maybe not.

Some believe that Summers and Dill have reached their ceiling of support and that King had nowhere to go but down. The latest polls show the real race, they say.

However, not everyone agrees with that assessment. King has a long record. His diminished lead will be an incentive for Republican groups to continue dumping money into the race.

So what does King do?

PPP, in its analysis of the race, offered a solution.

“It’s reaching the point where King may need to more explicitly say he’s going to organize as Democrat if he wants to win this race,” PPP’s Dean Debnam wrote, adding that King is winning only 13 percent of the Republican vote, but losing 26 percent of the Democratic vote to Dill.

Debnam’s advice was immediately echoed by the Huffington Post.

However, by announcing that he’ll caucus with Democrats, King could undercut his primary campaign message, his independence.

Others have suggested that King gravitate toward policy positions that Democrats support. (Is it a coincidence that the only issue position in the MPRC poll was about taxing the wealthy? MPRC, remember, is linked to the Maine Peoples Alliance, a progressive advocacy group.)

Whatever Democrats and King decide to do, they’ll have to do it fast. As the 2010 governor’s race showed, party-affiliated voters often vote early.

Early voting for overseas residents begins Friday; it’s Oct. 5 for everyone else.

King raises money in D.C.

King was in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to raise money for his campaign, including at one event at the home of a Democratic lobbyist.

King’s trip comes as polls show the race tightening and as his wife, Mary Herman, is making her own appeal for donation to counter the anti-King ads by Republican groups “literally trying to buy this election.”

King has taken at least two previous trips to D.C. for fundraisers, and at least one other event was hosted by Democratic lobbyists.

Such excursions are a routine part of a U.S. Senate campaign, although it’s trickier in King’s case. D.C. is a highly partisan town, and he is running as an independent who says he wants to break through the partisan gridlock.

King has not said which party he would caucus with if elected. National Democrats clearly expect King to side with their party, but King has said his decision will be based on the balance of power in the Senate and on what is the best decision for the state. He also has suggested not caucusing with either party if he can negotiate committee assignments without taking sides.

Some are suggesting King should simply declare his support for Democrats now that the race has tightened, but King is not likely to give up all his bargaining power at this point.

King was expected to attend multiple fundraisers on the trip. One is at the home of Patrick Murphy, a longtime Democratic donor. Guests are being asked to donate $500, $1,000 or $2,500.

King’s rivals have called him hypocritical for seeking money from partisan lobbyists when he claims to be running against the political influence of parties and money.

King’s spokesman, Crystal Canney, told Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller last week that the independent has to raise money to defend himself against Republican attacks.

“We have to fundraise with $1.7 million in negative, attack money against Angus,” Canney told Miller. “And every single dollar that Angus raises is entirely disclosable. We are not hiding from anybody.”

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be reached at 791-6345 or at:

[email protected]

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Susan Cover can be reached at 621-5643 or at:

[email protected]

Staff Writer John Richardson can be reached at 791-6324 or at:

[email protected]