Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is the face of moderate Republicans on the Hill. She had a partner in crime in Olympia Snowe, but she decided to leave in 2013. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, easily won her seat. She is viewed as unbeatable, gobbling up more and more of the Maine electorate with each passing re-election campaign. In 2014, she won with 68 percent of the vote. No prominent state Republican would dare challenge her in a primary. The only one I can think of who could, but will most likely won’t, is former Gov. Paul LePage. Don’t get me wrong, I agree more with LePage than Collins, but the sole Republican from New England could face a tough re-election battle over her vote for Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Collins could be in the fight for her political life. In typical fashion, when the going gets tough, moderates often tuck tail and run. That’s part of the irony. They complain that things are too partisan for centrist voters and politicians, so they combat that…by not running for re-election. Anyway, it seems Collins is not of that mold this cycle. In fact, it looks she’s grown a spine on her Kavanaugh vote, as reported by The New York Times. Unlike the trash editorial board op-ed about the border crisis, this piece was quite good, noting the growing challenges Collins and any future GOP candidate faces in Maine, along with highlighting another key aspect that could keep Collins alive: she gets things done for her state. Yes, Democrats will definitely take a shot at her for being in D.C. for decades, but Maine has reaped some dividends from that representation. Also, Collins takes a shot at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. She knows his crew will attack her, but added that she’s the senator he works with most on legislation. That may be true, but when has friendship even trumped winning in politics. The publication caught up with her at an Independence Day event in Eastport, Maine (via NYT):
“I’m an important voice for the nation in an increasingly polarized environment,” Ms. Collins said, noting that a conservative Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who survived his own tough re-election battle last year, has endorsed her. “There are so few members left in the center.”
She also took a swipe at Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader: “It’s ironic to me that I am among Chuck Schumer’s top targets when there is no one who works more across the aisle.”
The race next year is likely to be fought in more populous southern Maine, where Portland is growing and trending distinctly Democratic. Even the more Republican North sent a warning shot in 2018 when it narrowly elected a Democrat, Jared Golden, to the House.
But here in tiny Eastport, Collins defenders say she is still one of them. The city, whose year-round population of nearly 1,300 more than doubles in the summer, looks across a bay at Canada and has the largest Fourth of July celebration in the state, a razzle-dazzle weeklong affair with beauty pageants, a watermelon-eating contest and codfish relay race, in which participants doff and don rain gear without dropping a cod.
Many parade-goers did not have Mr. Trump or the Supreme Court at the top of their minds; they were too busy thanking Ms. Collins for making a last-minute call to the secretary of the Navy to assure that a destroyer would be in port — a boon for local tourism and hometown pride.
Politics in Maine are complicated, which means Ms. Collins faces criticism no matter what she does. Independent voters — “unenrolled,” in the Maine lexicon — account for the largest percentage of the electorate; these are the voters she must win. Democratic registration is growing, a problem for Ms. Collins. Just as problematic are the Trump Republicans who do not care much for their senior senator.
The senator’s “yes” vote may prove one of the most consequential of her career.
“I do not regret my vote in the least,” she said, noting Justice Kavanaugh’s record on abortion — he voted to uphold a restrictive Louisiana abortion law but not to take up a case that posed a threat to Roe v. Wade.
Collins may be a moderate, but that Kavanaugh vote should buy her some goodwill with conservatives. She was critical in giving us a 5-4 majority and that could increase if Trump gets a second term. Yes, some of the recent decisions have been disappointing, but nothing is certain on the Court. Also, it was a win for the due process; Democrats were willing to trash a man and character assassinate him in front of the whole nation on baseless accusations of sexual misconduct, some of which were absolute trash. None of the accusations could be fully corroborated. They tried to “Bork” Kavanaugh. They tried to replay the Clarence Thomas playbook. We stopped them. Most importantly, Collins helped make that happen. The publication added that Collins votes with Trump around 70 percent of the time. She’s not the more reliable of Republicans, but 70 percent is better than zero-to-ten percent, which is what will happen if a Democrat wins. It’s an election year. This is the reality on the ground: she gives us the best hope for holding that seat. I hope Collins gets another term. But as the season gets more intense, I hope that spine of hers on the Kavanaugh vote becomes infused with steel. Don’t back down—ever. Once you do, it’s all over.