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Senate Update: Susan Collins Bouncing Back, Ernst Slightly Trailing

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Posted: Jun 16, 2020 1:05 PM
Senate Update: Susan Collins Bouncing Back, Ernst Slightly Trailing

Source: Caroline Brehman/Pool Photo via AP

Given the current state of the presidential race -- which could, of course, change dramatically -- one of the most consequential questions about the 2020 election cycle is whether or not Chuck Schumer will emerge as majority leader of the US Senate. In order to swing the upper chamber into Democratic hands, the opposition needs to flip at least three currently GOP-held seats in the upcoming election, if not four or five (depending on which party has the presidency, and assuming Republicans win back an Alabama seat they lost in a perfect storm fluke). As we recently relayed, Schumer and friends have a very real shot at doing so, with polls showing Democratic challengers leading or highly competitive in nine races (AZ, CO, IA, GA, GA, KS, ME, MT, NC).

It's been quite some time since Republicans received any good news on this front, but two recent developments are at least relatively encouraging. After experiencing an alarming slide several months ago, moderate Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins appeared to be in extremely serious trouble. Money has poured in from out of state lefties eager to punish Collins for various votes, especially her courageous and consistent vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh amid a high-octane smear campaign. Her fundraising has been tepid, and she's never been a favorite of the Republican base. But by staying the course and notching a crucial legislative victory on a key assistance program for small businesses crippled by pandemic-related restrictions, Collins has mounted a comeback. National Journal's Josh Kraushaar reports:

In polling conducted by the pro-Collins 1820 PAC, the fourth-term senator trailed Democratic opponent Sara Gideon by 10 points at the end of the impeachment trial—a significant deficit for a senator who rarely saw her approval dip underwater before this campaign. But in a sign that public opinion is still volatile in Maine, Collins was able to close her polling deficit by late April, aided by positive advertising about her work helping Mainers in the midst of the pandemic, particularly her coauthorship of the successful Paycheck Protection Program. An internal survey taken for 1820 PAC by the Tarrance Group in late April, obtained by National Journal, found Collins reemerging with a narrow lead over Gideon, 48 to 47 percent. The poll found her favorability rating had increased 7 points from January to April, and stood at 53 percent. Republican and Democratic strategists involved in the race agree that it is highly competitive...Both agree that Collins, unlike most of her other vulnerable Senate colleagues, is better-positioned with independent voters.

The contours of this race have shifted from a potential blue lean to a pure tossup, with the incumbent perhaps re-establishing a tiny edge. The question of whether Republicans can manage to cling on to Senate control after November may boil down to the fate of a woman who's spent her career being derided by many of the party faithful as a "RINO." Meanwhile, a handful of developments in Colorado's Senate race may offer a few glimmers of hope to the campaign of incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. Democrats' hand-picked nominee is former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who needs to defeat a left-wing opponent in a June 30 primary. Hickenlooper has been looking somewhat invincible in early polling, but a string of gaffes and developments may be diminishing his luster. In a recent Democratic debate, Hickenlooper wrongly stated that George Floyd was shot and said that he believes Tara Reid's sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden -- while reaffirming his unswerving support for Biden.  

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