‘She knows Maine’: How Susan Collins defied Democrats
By PATRICK WHITTLE and ANDREW TAYLORtodayFILE – In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks to reporters in Bangor, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — If Republicans are able to hold onto their majority in the U.S. Senate, the remarkable staying power of Susan Collins will be a big reason why.
Collins defied prognostications of doom from Washington’s consultant class to score perhaps the most unexpected victory of the 2020 cycle, hanging a lopsided loss on a Democratic challenger despite a pile of outside Democratic money and open hostility from the leader of her party, President Donald Trump.
Revitalized and empowered, Collins now has the chance to wield her influence over a Senate where the sweet spot for President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda will be found somewhere in the moderate middle — the political space she’s happily called home for decades.ADVERTISEMENT
“It’s a sign that my colleagues realize if we’re going to serve the American people, we need to come together,” Collins said.
Mainers largely have embraced Collins’ call for pragmatism since sending her to the Senate in 1997. But Democrats banked on increased polarization eroding that support. They attacked the senator as an enabler of Trump and his combative politics, much as they sought to leverage national outrage over Trump into enough Senate victories to flip the body to Democratic control. So far, they’ve succeeded in flipping only two seats, in Arizona and Colorado.
Mainers showed they weren’t ready to hold Collins responsible for the leader of her party. As Biden won the state, Collins outperformed Trump by 7 percentage points, and her opponent, Democrat Sara Gideon, had little success peeling moderate voters away from the senator. Collins appeared to beat Gideon with independents while overwhelmingly holding on to Republicans, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of voters.
The senator claimed that strength was not a surprise. On Thursday, she scoffed at pre-election polls that showed her trailing Gideon, including one purporting to show Collins was losing her home turf of Aroostook County in northern Maine. In the end, Collins won Aroostook comfortably and her nine-point statewide win exceeded the final survey from her own pollster, she told reporters on Thursday.
“That is where I’m from. There is no way on Earth that I was going to be losing Aroostook County,” Collins said, noting the support she felt on a late-campaign bus tour of the state. “The response was so good I thought, ‘How can these people say I’m losing?’”
Collins has made herself a force in the state, showing up to crack crustaceans at lobster bakes or to crack a bottle of Champagne against the bow of a warship she sponsored at Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works. She reminded voters of the money she brought to the state for Navy destroyers, port projects and bridges.ADVERTISEMENT