Ethan: Did you take a look at the new poll on the U.S. Senate race I just sent? It shows U.S. Sen. Susan Collins losing 51 percent to 42 percent to House Speaker Sara Gideon!
Phil: A-yuh. Sobering news for Susan. However, I caution you, my excitable friend, that this is merely a momentary snapshot six months before Election Day.
Ethan: I wish Election Day was today! For our readers, the poll was done by a joint left/right partnership. Commissioned by “Swing Hard. Run Fast. Turn Left!” a decidedly progressive organization I run, but conducted by Victory Geek, a non-partisan data and telecom provider with mostly conservative clients.
Phil: While no one should ever underestimate Susan Collins, the trend in the last few public polls is certainly in the wrong direction for those of us who want to see her re-elected. In March we saw a poll that showed her down 4 points. Two months later, she is now down 9.
Ethan: If I were on Team Collins what I would find most concerning is that Gideon is winning by 20+ points among women and seven points among independents, usually her backstop.
Phil: I saw that. A bigger surprise is that she is losing by 12 points in the 2nd Congressional District. But the reason I reminded you not to get too excited is a number like that will not hold. Donald Trump won northern Maine four years ago by 10 points. No way he comes close to that number in 2020 and Collins loses by 12, especially when rural voters find out Gideon is a liberal from Rhode Island.
Ethan: I have some news for you, Trump won’t win CD2 by 10 again, and Gideon is much more relatable to rural families than you realize.
Phil: I noticed your poll also showed that Democratic activist Betsy Sweet would not do as well as Gideon against Collins.
Ethan: Yes, sadly, you are correct. In full disclosure, Sweet and I are like family and I gave a contribution to her campaign.
Phil: That reminds me, while Collins and I don’t spend every Thanksgiving together, as I know you and Sweet do, I have contributed to Collins’ campaign this cycle.
Ethan: You should join us one year! We play a mean game of flag football.
Phil: Flag? Do you use a nerf football too?
Ethan: As you said, the poll indicates that Sweet is not as strong against Collins, although some of the issues she is advocating for, “Medicare for All” and the “Green New Deal,” are very popular among swing voters. And since the poll shows that Gideon is almost assuredly going to win the primary, I hope she embraces some of Sweet’s platform in general.
Phil: But we digress. So, what do you think the poll means?
Ethan: It means Collins is in the fight of her political life.
Phil: Certainly this appears to be her toughest race since she got to the Senate, but with six months to go, a lot can and will happen.
Ethan: I remember in 2008 when Rep. Tom Allen got within single digits of Collins the summer before Election Day. And then, in the blink of an eye, she won by over 20 points.
Phil: And, just like in that race, when voters get to know Gideon better, they won’t overlook her ethics violations, her anti-small business proposals, and how partisan she has been ( remember the shutdown, yeah, she was speaker then).
Ethan: As much as folks on your side of the aisle will want to change the subject, this race will be a verdict on the incumbent and her “ proud” votes in support of Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and tax cuts for the rich. Not to mention her most recent vote against impeachment.
Phil: So, you got a bold prediction on this race?
Ethan: I do. I predict that on the first ballot they will basically be tied at 45 percent, with Lisa Savage, the Green Independent in the race getting 10 percent. Then, after ranked-choice voting, Sara Gideon will become our next US senator with a final vote of 51-49.
Phil: Let’s rewind the tape to 2016 and recall that the pollsters gave Hilary Clinton an 82 percent chance of winning the presidency. My prediction is that Mainers will not give away the experience and seniority Collins has earned. She wins 52 percent on the first ballot, no ranked choice needed.
Phil Harriman served as a town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth. Ethan Strimling served as mayor and state senator from Portland.