Like a bridge over troubled waters

If one could only be a fly on the wall inside the offices of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree

Gov. Angus King (Bowdoin College photo)

Today, former Maine Governor Angus King officially took his big toe out of Maine’s political pool, climbed a 15-story ladder and then did a quadruple jacknife dive (with a twist) into the deep end of the pool.

The ensuing splash was felt in places as far away as Madawaska, and in less than six hours — King received more media attention than Pingree has gotten since the last time Donald Sussman bought a group of newspapers.

Until today, Pingree was the commonly accepted front-runner to fill Senator Olympia Snowe’s moderate, size 6 shoes, despite the fact that every Maine resident with at least one vowel in their last name was considering a run for either the First Congressional District or the US Senate.

King’s gravitas, combined with his popularity and solid polling numbers, has Democrats across Maine wondering aloud tonight whether Chellie should just sit tight in her First District House seat rather than risk splitting the vote, allowing a Republican to capture Snowe’s seat.

The balance of the entire US Senate is in play. The stakes are high, and the potential consequences are severe.

But the Republican candidates, a bench which so far includes the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer and the Maine Attorney General, should also be paying attention.

King’s entrance into the race could impact Republicans and Democrats equally, and that’s because King is much more centrist than his independent counterpart, Eliot Cutler.

Many Democrats remain bitter about Cutler’s independent bid for the Blaine House in 2010, speculating that his candidacy split the Democrat base and allowed Republican Governor Paul LePage to win with 38 percent of the vote.

If Republicans are banking on a repeat of that 2010 split-the-Democrat vote strategy, they may want to consider a Plan B . . . because Angus King is no Eliot Cutler.

For starters, King is likable and he also appeals to right-leaning independents.

Sure, King has plenty of detractors and vulnerabilities…but minimizing his candidacy will be a tall order for any of the usual suspects, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats.

RELATED: An interview I conducted with Governor King during his final days in office .