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Maine Races

Senate Outlook for 2008

Can Democrats Take Advantage of the Turf?

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Maine

Outlook: Leans Republican


October 20, 2008 Update:

It’s funny: of ALL the contested Senate seats in this cycle, with Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky ALL in play, the GOP incumbent in dark-blue Maine is one of the safest of them all. Democratic Congressman Tom Allen has all of the advantages we laid out in the last update, but has made no inroads in the polls against Republican Susan Collins. Her poll numbers have remained in the double digits since June, and her image-making as a moderate Republican, combined with the natural advantage of the incumbency, has prevented Allen from successfully tying her to failed Republican policies like other Senate candidates have done this year (also funny: it has worked in Oregon; see Merkley, Jeff). Sure Barack Obama should easily take the state on Election Day. Sure Collins may not be as popular as fellow GOP Sen. Olympia Snow. But one thing is definitely for certain: amidst all these amusing anecdotes, if these poll numbers persist, Tom Allen won’t be laughing on November 5th.

June 19, 2008 Update:

Politics can be just like fishing. You can have the best equipment, find the best location, and have the perfect conditions, but sometimes, the fish just aren’t biting. That’s how Maine Democrat Tom Allen feels right about now. Once considered one of the top recruits of the cycle, Allen seemed poised to unseat yet another Northeastern Republican in Senator Susan Collins. He has the fundraising ($2.75 million cash on hand), the name ID, and the national mood at his back, but Allen just can’t seem to make the sales pitch to Maine voters.

A recent poll shows Collins holding a commanding 53 to 37 lead which has not changed since the campaign began. To be sure, Collins has not committed a fireable offense, but neither did Senators DeWine or Chafee in 2006, yet both found themselves unemployed last November. This cycle, Collins has done a better job of consolidating independent and moderate Republican support from headliners like Joe Lieberman (aside: does he endorse Democrats anymore?), John McCain, and George Bush Sr. to inoculate herself from the poisonous national mood. Thus far, Allen’s attempts to tie her to the Bush administration have fallen flat, and if he doesn’t fundamentally reshape Maine’s electoral landscape, so too will his bid for the Senate.

March 25, 2008 Update:

Here’s a race that’s shaping up to be pretty remarkable. Republican incumbent Susan Collins and Democratic challenger Tom Allen have both been in Washington for 12 years, Collins in the Senate; Allen in the House. As they’ve begun to square off, their combined fundraising totals point to this being the most expensive race in Maine history; however, Collins is enjoying only the slightest edge in cash on hand. Allen faces something of an uphill battle, since Collins has enjoyed fairly strong job approval ratings. If he hopes to overcome his deficit in the polls, Allen is going to need to change a lot of minds. Unlike most challengers, Allen shouldn’t have problems with name recognition thanks to his tenure in Congress, but unless he can create some major momentum, Collins still appears to have the upper hand in what will be a closely contested race.

December 14, 2007 Update:

Two-term Senator Susan Collins (R) is still the favorite for reelection, but if a Democrat wins Maine by a wide margin, the coattail effect could work in favor of Congressman Tom Allen (D). We will be carefully monitoring this one, but Collins is holding up well so far.


Background

In Maine, the race for Senator Susan Collins‘s seat is shaping up to be a barnburner. Democratic Representative Tom Allen continues to impress the DSCC by banking $1.1M in the second quarter, leaving him with $1.7 million cash-on-hand. Not to be outdone, Senator Collins trumped Allen with almost $1.3 million in the second quarter, filling her coffers to a total of $2.3 million cash-on-hand.

Collins is generally respected within the state and enjoys favorable approval ratings, but her stance on Iraq and the unpopularity of President Bush are the twin albatrosses around the Senator’s neck. Unlike her Republican Senatorial counterpart Olympia Snowe, who avoided challenge in the wave of 2006, Collins did not support the Democratic-led Iraq withdrawal plan and has unsuccessfully attempted to find middle ground on the partisan divide over the Middle East. Still, it would take quite an impressive anti-Iraq war movement to unseat Collins, and Maine does not yet seem to have that type of movement afoot.

Allen does still have a fighting chance in November 2008, given the Lincoln Chafee precedent of 2006. The parallels are many; both Collins and Chafee are moderate, popular Republicans in Northeastern states bogged down by an unpopular president. Democrats hope that Collins, like Chafee in 2006, will be ultimately swept away by a Democratic wave.

Republicans, on the other hand, are quick to point out that Chafee had to endure a bruising primary and Maine is naturally more conservative than Rhode Island. The other big difference is Senator Collins’s stance on the Iraq war (Chafee was the only Republican to vote against it, Collins is more hawkish), but only time will tell whether Mainers are fed up enough to unseat this still-popular incumbent.

Candidates

Susan Collins (I) – Republican – current Senator
Website

Tom Allen – Democrat – U.S. House Represenative
Website