Susan Collins, left, and Sara Gideon. Credit: Patrick Semansky; Robert F. Bukaty | AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was nearly tied with a top Democratic rival in a poll released Tuesday by Colby College that showed a bump for House Speaker Sara Gideon since the 2020 race was last surveyed months ago.

Gideon, who is one of four Democrats running in a June primary for the nomination to face Collins in November, had 43 percent of support in the survey. The Republican incumbent had 42 percent support with another 14 percent of voters undecided. The poll was conducted earlier this month and had an error margin of just over 3 percentage points.

The poll of more than 1,000 Maine voters was conducted by phone and online by faculty at the Waterville college and SocialSphere, a Massachusetts-based pollster. The Wall Street Journal first reported the poll on Tuesday. It showed heavy movement since the last survey of the race in June, when Collins led Gideon in one hypothetical matchup by 16 percentage points.

Collins’ seat has been targeted by more than $10 million in ads since last year, with much of that spent by Democrats and allied groups to hammer the Republican incumbent representing a blue-leaning state who became a top target for liberals after her 2018 vote for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The Maine senator’s popularity has waned in a heavily nationalized environment. A survey released last month by Morning Consult found that Collins had the highest disapproval rating of any senator, with her approval rating down from 67 percent in early 2017 to 42 percent late last year. She won her 2014 re-election campaign with more than two-thirds of votes.

The Colby poll gave mixed signals on Collins’ votes earlier this month to acquit President Donald Trump of impeachment charges. Mainers were nearly split 50-50 on whether she made the right decision though 60 percent disapproved of Trump.

When asked about Collins’ vote on the president in other ways, 37 percent said Mainers should be disappointed in the senator, 30 percent say they should be proud and another 31 percent said they should have mixed feelings, while 46 percent of people said the move did not affect their opinion of Collins.

The Maine senator has already raised more money than any politician in state history as she runs for a fifth term, though Gideon outraised her in the second half of 2019 with both spending nearly as much as they took in during the last quarter. Collins still had more than twice as much money left as Gideon did at the end of last year.

Gideon is running for the Democratic nomination in June against progressive lobbyist Betsy Sweet, former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse and lawyer Bre Kidman. The Colby poll pegged Gideon at 60 percent support among the primary field with Sweet next highest at 8 percent.

Another 31 percent of Democrats remained undecided in the primary and four independents and one Green candidate are trying to get on the November ballot against Collins and the eventual Democratic nominee.

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...