Susan Collins entered the 2020 election cycle as the main target of Democrats in the U.S. Senate – and ended it by defeating them again, winning a fifth term representing the state of Maine.
Collins announced in Maine on Wednesday that her Democratic opponent Sara Gideon had called her to concede the race. With more than 80% of the vote, Collins led Gideon by eight points – and with more than 50% of the vote, the senator avoids a second ballot under Maine’s tiered choice voting system, which Republicans feared would deny him victory.
Collins’ victory virtually ensures that the GOP will retain its grip on the Senate.
By resisting a historic onslaught of attack ads and an opponent who raised $ 70 million, Collins – who lagged in most pre-election public polls – could become the ultimate political survivor of the 2020 election And her victory assures her that she will remain relevant on Capitol Hill for at least six years: No matter how the White House and Senate majority races fall apart, Collins’ status as the one of the last real swing votes in the Senate is unlikely to change.
At first glance, it seemed that the 2020 policy presented an inescapable vise for Collins. Elected since 1996 in independent-minded Maine as a compromise-oriented centrist, Collins faced an increasingly polarized electorate where many voters began to care less about her history of policymaking and more of his most controversial votes and tortured relationship with President Trump.
Gideon, the speaker of the Maine State House of Representatives, entered the race fueled by the backlash of Collins’ vote in 2018 to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Liberals across the country made it their mission to oust Collins after that vote, and for over a year that energy fueled Gideon’s record-breaking fundraiser for Maine.
Another Supreme Court fight at the end of the 2020 election season appeared to place Collins in even more volatile political territory. Following the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September, Collins said she would not support the appeal until November 3 and was the only GOP senator to vote against Amy Coney Barrett in the final vote on October 26 – the first time Collins has ever voted against a candidate. The move seemed to appeal to almost no one, with liberal-minded voters already against it over Kavanaugh’s account, and Trump himself mocking Collins at rallies and on Twitter for opposing his precious top choice. court.
Even so, what may have saved Collins was a quality few other GOP holders on the ballot this fall could claim: a distinct political brand that allowed him to endure the strong anti-Republican wave across the board. national level and growing resistance to her return home.
The senator’s record of breaking up with Trump did not cost him much support among the state’s extremist GOP base. And while the Democrats – once a key part of Collins’ double-digit wins in Maine – have largely fled to Gideon, the Democrat has been unable to sufficiently influence the independent voters who have traditionally backed Collins and made it to new this year.
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