Sunday, August 24, 2014

Race of the Day- Maine U.S. Senate

72 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Safe Republican

As moderate Republican Susan Collins seeks a fourth term in the Senate, she is the only incumbent who can boast of tri-partisan endorsements. Her friend and colleague Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat is supporting her, and the two of them represent an ever shrinking list of non-conservatives or non-liberals on Capitol Hill.

Of course, many on the right would claim that Collins is a liberal, but despite some talk, a primary challenge to her never materialized. Mainers seem to really like moderate GOP Senators and for most of her tenure, Collins' senior colleague from the state had been fellow moderate Republican Olympia Snowe. Neither woman really had a competitive reelection campaign in the Democrat leaning New England state. Now, Snowe is retired and Collins is pretty much the least conservative of all Senate Republicans remaining. For example, she is one of the few Senate Republicans to support same-sex marriage. Nonetheless, she has shown a bit of a partisan streak during her time in Washington in her committee work, and was never really a serious possibility to change parties and jump to caucus with the Democrats, even after the two times Democrats took over the majority. She has always been slightly more conservative than Snowe as well.

As long as Collins would be on the ballot as the Republican candidate, Democrats knew that they really would not have any shot of picking up a seat that might easily go to them if it were open. Their nominee is Shenna Bellows, a 39 year old former Executive Director of the state's ACLU. Her liberal bona fides are clearly established, but Collins seems to be a perfect fit for the state and polls show her way ahead. The "Maine Event" in the state, as far as politics is concerned this year, would be the three way Gubernatorial contest in which the Republican incumbent, who is far to the right of Collins, is facing serious challenges.

In addition to the support of Democrat Machin, Collins has also been endorsed for reelection by her new junior Senate colleague from Maine. Angus King is an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats and is the person who 20 years ago defeated Collins in a Gubernatorial race. That has been her only political defeat. King is someone who while typically liberal, fashions himself as a centrist (and who supported George W. Bush for President in 2000), and despite his current allegiance to Harry Reid on Capitol Hill, has pledged his support to an Independent candidate for Governor in his state and to the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

Thus, even though King is currently a part of the Senate majority, and would stand to suffer in clout and significance if Republicans took that majority over, he is backing Collins. That would lead to a very interesting scenario if Republicans do take over the majority, as most now expect, or if theoretically they are just one seat short. (I suppose questions could be asked about Manchin as well).

Since King is an Independent who caucuses with the majority Democrats, would he be willing to follow up on his endorsement of Collins, by being an Independent who caucuses with the majority Republicans? The actual Senate contest in Maine is basically decided this year, but that question could wind up being the most interesting side note of this race.

Collins campaign link:

Senate races predicted thus far: 4 D (3 Safe, 1 Tossup), 10 R (3 Safe, 1 Likely, 4 Leans, 2 Tossup)
Overall predicted thus far: 38 D, 40 R (net Republican gain of 4)


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