U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. Credit: Gabor Degre

AUGUSTA, Maine — More Mainers disapproved of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins than approved of her in the second quarter of 2019 for the first time in more than two years of polling by a national firm in perhaps the best sign yet for Democrats in an uphill bid to oust her in 2020.

Collins, a Republican, became a top target for Democrats after her October vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Next year’s campaign is tracking to be the most expensive in Maine history, with Collins raising nearly $6.5 million by June’s end to $1 million in 10 days for House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, one of four Democrats running.

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The level of the threat to Collins, who long polled as Maine’s most popular politician and won her fourth term in 2014 with more than two-thirds of votes, has been difficult to discern, but online polling from Morning Consult shows a 22-percentage point drop in approval for Collins between the beginning of 2017 and the second quarter of 2019.

Data from the latest quarter, released Tuesday, pegged Collins at 45 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval, with an error margin of 2 percentage points. She had a 67 percent approval rating in the first quarter of 2017 and was measured at 52 percent approval and 39 percent disapproval in the first three months of this year.

The Kavanaugh vote has seemingly led Collins to lose Democrats, while winning back Republicans who saw her as not conservative enough, such as in 2017 after she voted to preserve the Affordable Care Act. Democrats opposed her by a net margin of 40 percentage points in the latest survey, while Republicans back her by a 27-point margin.

It’s the second poll this year to show growing voter dissatisfaction with Collins, after one released in May by Critical Insights. That looked like an outlier at the time, compared with a March poll from Pan Atlantic Research pegging her at 62 percent approval, but another June survey from Florida-based Gravis Marketing showed her at 48 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval.

For now, Collins remains favored to win a fifth term: In head-to-head polling against Gideon, the incumbent led with 51 percent of votes to Gideon’s 29 percent in the Pan Atlantic poll and with 52 percent to Gideon’s 36 percent in the more recent Gravis survey.

Gideon is running for the Democratic nomination against Hallowell lobbyist and former gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet and the lesser-known Saco lawyer Bre Kidman and retired Air Force major general Jonathan Tracey of Oxford. Collins faces a longshot primary challenge from conservative activist Derek Levasseur of Fairfield.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, was pegged as the most popular of the nation’s senators in the Morning Consult survey with 62 percent approval. Democrat Janet Mills was in the middle of the pack among governors at 50 percent approval to 40 percent disapproval. That latter figure spiked from 30 percent in 2019’s first quarter.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...