President Donald Trump, right, speaks to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, second from left, during a signing ceremony for a drug pricing bill in 2018. Credit: Susan Walsh / AP

President Donald Trump hit U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in a Monday interview, saying she will be “very badly” hurt by her move to break with fellow Republicans in saying the president elected in November should nominate the next Supreme Court justice.

It is one of the first times that the moderate Republican senator has been directly criticized by the bombastic president as she draws support from a more conservative pool of voters than ever in a nationally targeted race for a fifth term with House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport.

Collins is vulnerable in Democratic-leaning Maine after backing Trump at key moments, including her 2018 vote for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She has bucked her party at other times, however, including in 2017 when she opposed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. She was criticized by many conservatives then, but not by Trump, who focused his ire on the late Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who voted with Collins.

After the Friday death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans signaled that they would quickly move to fill the vacant seat. Collins issued a Saturday statement saying any vote should not come before the Nov. 3 election and that the winner of the race between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, should pick the new justice.

The Maine senator did not say how she would vote if Republicans rushed a nominee to the floor, but she was the second senator in her party to take a similar stand alongside fellow moderate Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. 

Trump said he would announce a nominee by Friday or Saturday in a Fox News interview on Monday morning and referenced the positions of the two senators by saying Republican voters “aren’t going to take this.”

“I think she’ll really be hurt badly in two years,” he said of Murkowski’s 2022 re-election, “and I think that Susan Collins is going to be hurt very badly.”

In response, Collins spokesperson Annie Clark said the senator “always does what she thinks is right for Maine and America — no matter which political party is in power.” The Maine senator refused to endorse Trump in 2016 and she has not said how she will vote for president in 2020 as she faces the electoral fight of her career.

Gideon has raised a record amount of money in her campaign that has seen more than $80 million in fundraising and outside spending and has led Collins in all independent public polls of the race this year. The ranked-choice voting race also features independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn.

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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...