Sen. Reid expresses confidence Maine's King will caucus with Democrats

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) expressed confidence Tuesday night that Sen.-elect Angus King, the independent from Maine, would caucus with Democrats.

Reid told The Hill in a brief interview at D.C.'s Liaison hotel that he spoke with King earlier in the evening by telephone and the conversation went well.

“We had a nice visit,” he said.

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When asked if King had given any indication whether he would caucus with the Democrats, Reid initially said: “Talk to him." But after the reporter began to turn away, Reid tapped him on the shoulder, winked and gave a big smiling nod.

A senior aide to Reid said Tuesday’s phone conversation was the first time Reid and King had spoken.

Some observers have speculated that Reid hatched a secret deal with King to woo him to the Democratic Caucus. But Democrats denied any deal-making, and King steadfastly refused to say during the campaign which party he would sit with should he win. His choice will matter in determining the margin of the majority and could influence the allocation of committee seats and staff resources.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at the end of September bought $410,000 in television airtime to help King stave off a run by the Republican challenger, Charlie Summers. They did not offer support to Democratic nominee Cynthia Dill.

In late September, the National Republican Senatorial Committee expanded its advertising campaign against King to nearly $1 million after Summers gained traction in state polls.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ chief political strategist, predicted earlier this year that King would join the Democratic caucus.

“There’s only one state where the strong likelihood is there’s a pick-up,” Schumer said in May. "That’s Maine and that’s ours.”

Maine Democrats, however, expressed concern that King might join the Republicans instead.

Stan Gerzofsky, a delegate to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C, and a state senator from Brunswick, who served in the legislature when King was Maine’s governor 12 years ago, told The Hill in September: “I thought he was more of a Republican governor.”