U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, left, joins Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., at a forum about student financial aid applications at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 24, 2014.
Erik Schelzig—AP
October 29, 2014 5:40 PM EDT

Maine’s independent voters are being urged by two of their own to support the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in order to stave off the re-election of the state’s conservative Republican governor.

Independent Sen. Angus King switched his endorsement from independent Eliot Cutler to Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud in the state’s three-way race for the governor’s mansion. The announcement followed a Cutler press conference Wednesday in which he said Mainers should “vote their conscience” in the Nov. 4 election, a seeming admission that he can’t win.

King, who served two terms as governor, said he still likes Cutler, but he cited realpolitik as the reason for his switch.

“My feelings about Eliot on these matters have not changed since I endorsed his candidacy four years ago and again this past August,” said King. “But, like Eliot, I too am a realist. After many months considering the issues and getting to know the candidates, it is clear that the voters of Maine are not prepared to elect Eliot in 2014.”

King said that he had worked with Michaud for 20 years and that he has “what it takes to be Maine’s next governor.”

The moves Wednesday will likely shore up support for Michaud even though Cutler has not dropped out of the race. On Tuesday, the Republican Governor’s Association released an ad reminding voters that King didn’t endorse Michaud. LePage has struggled in his bid for reelection and is in a neck and neck race with Michaud. Cutler, who lost to LePage by less than two points in another three-way race four years ago, has done even worse, polling recently between seven and 16 percent, according to Real Clear Politics.

“This was not an easy decision, but I think the circumstances require that those of us who have supported Eliot look realistically at the options before us at this critical moment in Maine history,” said King.

The race is not the only one in the nation where the top two candidates have been trying to edge out a potential spoiler. Chad Taylor, the Kansas Democrat running for Senate, announced last month that he would withdraw from the race, boosting independent Greg Orman’s bid to unseat Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. And in South Dakota, Democrat Rick Weiland complained this week that national party members failed him in focusing their attacks on Republican Mike Rounds—giving Independent Larry Pressler a reprieve—instead of fueling his own candidacy.

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