The Corner

Elections

The Electoral Durability of Susan Collins

Sen. Susan Collins talks to reporters on Capitol Hill, May 16, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Liam Donovan dismantles a survey by the Democratic firm PPP, contending that Maine GOP senator Susan Collins will seriously endanger her 2020 reelection chances if she votes to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.

I’d throw one or two more pieces of data onto the pile. Presuming Collins, a moderate Republican, chooses to run for reelection in 2020, this won’t be the first time that she sought another term in her deep-blue-ish state in a presidential year. The last time she faced those circumstances was 2008, when Barack Obama won almost 58 percent of the vote in Maine to John McCain’s 40 percent, the biggest margin by a Democrat in Maine since 1964. With the Great Recession starting to hit, and Obama-mania driving huge Democratic turnout, it was probably the worst political environment for Republicans in a generation.

And Susan Collins won reelection with more than 61 percent. The race was never that close. And this was a few years after she had voted to confirm John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

If 2008 was the toughest political environment for the GOP in the past generation, then 1996 probably wasn’t too far behind, as Bill Clinton sought another term amidst a roaring economy, H. Ross Perot split the anti-incumbent vote, and the GOP banner was carried by old reliable Bob Dole. The Kansas senator just got crushed in Maine that year, carrying less than 31 percent of the vote. And yet, in the same political environment, Collins won her first Senate race with 49 percent of the vote.

I know, I know, “this time it’s different!” and we don’t know what the political environment will be like in autumn 2020. But a lot of Maine Democrats have convinced themselves that Collins is endangered over the years, only to find her winning reelection by a wide margin on Election Day.

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