PORTLAND, Maine – When Republican Sen. Susan Collins had to vote on a Supreme Court justice in 2018, she deliberated under the spotlight for weeks, building suspense that ended with a dramatic floor speech. When she announced her support for President Donald Trump’s nominee, she triggered an onslaught of Democratic anger.
On Monday, Collins cast her vote against Trump’s pick without any speech and quickly headed home to Maine to try to save her political career.
Collins' contrasting moves on the Supreme Court nominations of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett underscore the difficulty for a senator trying to find middle ground in an election in which the battle lines appear starker than ever. Her vote in favor of Kavanaugh rallied Democrats against her and angered some moderate supporters, while her vote against Barrett may not do much to win them back.
Throughout the campaign, the four-term senator has had to fight off accusations that her years in Washington have changed her and that she puts Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP over the interests of regular Mainers.
“I was taught to give back to my community, to serve others and to act with integrity. That’s what I’ve always done,” Collins told The Associated Press. “I certainly have not changed.”
But Maine and American politics are changing.
The state known for its fierce independent spirit as much as its lighthouses and lobsters is becoming less so, and Democrats, not independents, now comprise the biggest voting bloc.
Throw in a well-funded opponent, along with a polarizing president, and the last Republican member of Congress from New England finds herself battling for her political survival.