ME-Sen: NYT, “Sara Gideon (D) Is Running Strong Against Susan Collins (R) in Maine”

The New York Times has a piece out about the U.S. Senate race about how Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon (D. ME) is running a strong campaign to unseat the incumbent U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R. ME):

Her challenger is a smooth campaigner, fluent and assured about issues like Medicaid expansion, the environment and health care, and skilled in talking about how they affect Mainers. But the country’s partisan divisions are infecting the state, and the local contest is part of a much wider national picture. The race will turn much less on Ms. Gideon’s record, or even her political positions, than on what Maine voters think about Senator Collins. Has she sold her soul to President Trump’s Republican Party?

And so Ms. Gideon is attempting to present herself not just as an effective state politician who is ready for the national stage, but also as the obvious choice for voters alarmed at the president — and, by extension, at Ms. Collins.

“Gideon is charismatic and campaigns well and has a good rapport with crowds,” said Mark Brewer, a professor of political science at the University of Maine. “But the race isn’t primarily about Sara Gideon — it’s much more about Susan Collins.” And of course it is also about Mr. Trump, whose shadowy presence looms in the air at all times, in Maine as across the country.

The Boston Globe emphasizes how the electorate has royally turned on Collins:

“She used to stand up for herself, even when the popular opinion in her party wasn’t hers,” said Andrea Berry, a longtime Collins voter from Alfred who plans to vote for Gideon. “But now she just cowers.”

After Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Sept. 18, Collins attempted to show she still is willing to buck party lines. First, she said that the Senate should not vote on a nominee before the election, a vote which Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell have pledged will occur. Then, Collins went a step further and said she would vote against the nominee if the decision came before Election Day.

Many polls have shown Collins trailing Gideon by only four or five points, so her political obituary cannot be written yet. But the most expensive race in Maine’s history clearly has her in an unfamiliar role as an underdog, something that would have seemed far-fetched when she won in a landslide six years ago.

And as Mother Jones points out, older voters are going to force Collins into retirement:

If Collins loses this November, a freshly mobilized grassroots resistance can take some of the credit. But so too can Maine’s seniors, who appear to be abandoning her: While they supported her by a 20-percentage-point margin in 2014, a September poll showed them preferring her opponent by 18 points.

This election is shaping up as a referendum on whether Collins’ trademark moderation has lost its credibility. “I’m an important voice for the nation in an increasingly polarized environment,” she told the New York Times last July. “There are so few members left in the center.” She was one of three Republicans to back President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package; she voted with Democrats to expand background checks for gun buyers after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre; and she voted to repeal the ban on openly gay and lesbian troops. In 2016, she penned an op-ed announcing that she would not vote for Trump. In the early days of his administration, Collins seemed poised to reprise her role as a centrist when she helped Democrats sink her party’s repeated attempts to repeal Obamacare.

Overall, two-thirds of Collins’ votes have aligned with the president’s position, according to FiveThirtyEight, less than any of her Republican colleagues’. Yet she hasn’t been able to prove her independence from Trump or the GOP-controlled Senate that’s beholden to him. She voted for Trump’s tax cuts, which undercut the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and provided the basis for an ongoing lawsuit, supported by the president, that seeks to undo Obamacare entirely. During Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, she sided with Democrats in their failed effort to bring in witnesses, but ultimately voted to acquit.

Let’s keep up the momentum to flip Maine Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with Gideon, Biden, and their fellow Maine Democrats:

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Jared Golden