The Christian Science Monitor

Brett Kavanaugh, Susan Collins, and what Maine women think

Emily Qualey says she's backed Sen. Susan Collins since she was eligible to vote, but the last few years have been a wakeup call. Sen. Collins has "forgotten who she works for," says Ms. Qualey on September 4, 2019, in Portland Maine. Source: Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor

Sen. Susan Collins has long seemed unbeatable. 

Despite being a Republican in a state that leans slightly Democratic, she has handily won every reelection since her entry to the Senate in 1996. During her most recent race in 2014, Senator Collins won every county in Maine by at least 24 percentage points. She’s frequently named the most bipartisan senator, and has long been a political icon in her state.

But her political position has changed. Senator Collins has gone from the country’s second-most popular senator, to the second-most unpopular in 2019, right behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Cook Political Report shifted its forecast of Senator Collins’ race from “lean Republican” to “toss-up” in August. 

In the age of President Donald Trump and the increasing political polarization of the Republican and Democratic parties, the national space for moderates like Senator Collins has shrunk. Senator Collins seemed to be one of the last leaders in Washington standing on a centrist island between the two parties, and Maine voters, who prize themselves on independent thinking, loved her for that. But in 2020, there may no longer be enough land on the island for Senator Collins to stand. 

“I was always really proud of the idea that I could vote for two Republican women,” says Emily Qualey, a Democrat from Portland,

Flame of frustrationLess patience for a moderate leader“I actually feel bad for her”

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