Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has gone from being one of the most popular Republicans in New England to fighting for her political survival. In the past, Collins was reelected in double-digit landslides; in 2020, she is in danger of being voted out of office. And the Maine Republican discussed her frustrations during an interview with Politico.
Recent polls have shown Collins' Democratic challenger, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, with single-digit leads over Collins. A poll by the Bangor Daily News showed the race to be very close, with Gideon ahead by only 1%. But other recent polls have found Gideon ahead by 4% (Colby College) or 5% (Boston Globe/Suffolk University and New York Times/Siena).
Collins' political problems can be summarized in three words: President Donald Trump. Gideon and many other Democrats have argued that Collins is too supportive of Trump's far-right agenda, and countless Democrats are still furious with Collins for voting to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.
Collins, during her interview with Politico, said of Gideon, "She will say or do anything to try to win. This race is built on a foundation of falsehoods — and trying to convince the people of Maine that somehow, I am no longer the same person."
The Maine senator slammed Gideon during the interview for "defaming my reputation and attacking my integrity" and pointed out that Gideon is from Rhode Island, not Maine.
Collins told Politico, "I grew up in Caribou, I've lived in Bangor for 26 years. My family's been in Maine for generations. She's been in Maine for about 15 years and lives in Freeport. That's a big difference in our knowledge of the state."
Democrats all over the United States have been donating to Gideon's campaign in the hope that Collins will be voted out of the U.S. Senate. As far away as California and Washington State, Democrats haven't forgiven Collins for the Kavanaugh vote — or for voting "not guilty" on two articles of impeachment during Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate. And Collins noted how much support Gideon is receiving from outside of Maine.
"It's very frustrating because it's backed by so much money," Collins told Politico. "And it's been going on for two years now: non-stop negative ads. That eventually it pulls you down."
Collins, who did not vote for Trump in 2016, has not endorsed anyone in the 2020 presidential race. And when Politico asked her about that race, she would not say whether she plans to vote for Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden.
"My personal presidential preference, I do not believe, is an important factor in this race," Collins told Politico. "I'm not saying that the left is not trying to tie me to Donald Trump…. They clearly are…. (But) my independence is the same as it's always been."
However, Maeve Coyle, a Gideon spokesperson, vehemently disagrees that Collins has maintained her "independence." Coyle told Politico, "Sen. Collins' votes for 181 of Trump's far-right judicial nominees, for the corporate tax giveaway that put Mainers' health care in jeopardy — and her continued refusal to stand up to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump show just how much she's changed after 24 years in Washington. Her desperate, misleading attacks on Sara make clear that she's willing to do anything to stay there."