BANGOR, Me. — Senator Susan Collins of Maine appeared to have a problem on her arms.

A Republican operating for re-election in a troublesome yr for her social gathering, Ms. Collins was opposed by a well-funded Democrat with a political base in vote-rich Southern Maine who hoped to capitalize on the unpopularity of the Republican within the White Home. However in that 2008 race, even because the G.O.P. presidential nominee misplaced Maine by 17 share factors, Ms. Collins received re-election by over 20 factors, carrying each county within the state.

That was then.

Twelve years after what Ms. Collins thought was probably the most troublesome re-election of her profession, she is going through eerily related circumstances — however this time she’s within the combat of her political life. And it’s what has modified since 2008 in Maine, the Republican Social gathering and politics broadly that might finish her profession.

The four-term senator has alienated Democrats right here and past by voting to substantiate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. She has grow to be a nationwide punchline amongst liberals for what they see as her toothless tut-tutting of President Trump, whom she is invariably “involved” about. And she or he’s been out-raised $63 million to $25 million by her Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon, the speaker of the State Home.

Ms. Collins’s greatest drawback this yr, nonetheless, might not be Ms. Gideon or the out-of-state donors wanting to ship her a message, however moderately the shifting floor beneath her toes.

She is confronting a state, sharply cleaved by area and sophistication, that may have been politically unrecognizable to her predecessors; an more and more alien social gathering overtaken by a president who calls for unflinching loyalty; and, maybe most daunting of all, a polarized political tradition that elevates tribalism and nationwide points over the bipartisanship and pork-barreling that she has at all times pursued.

“I don’t know if folks reply as effectively to that anymore,” conceded former Senator William S. Cohen of Maine, a average Republican whom Ms. Collins succeeded within the Senate after working for him as a younger employees member. “Therein lies the problem of being someone within the center.”

Ms. Collins is the one Republican senator on the poll this yr who has not endorsed Mr. Trump.

In an interview on her marketing campaign bus, she acknowledged momentarily contemplating operating this yr as an unbiased — “it crossed my thoughts,” she stated — however was fast to notice that she couldn’t simply abandon “the New England model of Republicanism.”

It’s a dying breed. Ms. Collins is the one remaining Republican member of Congress from New England.

Equally endangered, although, are any senators who can win re-election when their social gathering’s nominee is soundly defeated within the state. Mr. Trump is anticipated to be aggressive solely in Maine’s Second Congressional District, which he received in 2016, and even there polls suggest that Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, has an edge.

In 1984, when Ronald Reagan received a 49-state landslide, Democrats nonetheless netted two Senate seats. And at the same time as lately as 2008, Republicans like Ms. Collins have been successful re-election in blue states whereas Democratic senators have been cruising in pink ones like South Dakota and West Virginia.

By 2016, although, the outcomes of each Senate race mirrored the state’s desire within the presidential race.

Now Ms. Collins is not any extra more likely to outrun Mr. Trump by 20 factors, as she did John McCain in 2008, than Maine is to embrace crab over lobster as its crustacean of selection.

Her argument, although, is that there are exceptions to this period of polarization, and that well-known lawmakers in calmly populated states can overcome the partisan tide. Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, for instance, each received as Democrats in Republican-leaning states simply two years in the past.

“There’s quite a lot of parallels,” Ms. Collins stated. “I nonetheless consider that almost all voters need issues solved and that they’re delay by this us-against-them tribalism.”

Listening to Ms. Collins kick off her statewide bus tour in Bangor was like stepping right into a political time machine.

She drew applause after trumpeting her report as probably the most bipartisan senator, famous that she had by no means missed a flooring vote and bragged concerning the federal {dollars} she had delivered for brand spanking new breakwaters in small communities.

Then she delivered the finale: “Together with your assist, once I’m re-elected, a yr later I grow to be the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee,” she introduced.

The pitch resonated with some supporters, however even they have been self-aware concerning the dated nature of Ms. Collins’s attraction.

“I suppose I’m a dinosaur in that I recognize her centrist views and likewise I recognize that she’s been doing this a very long time and has rating positions on quite a lot of necessary committees,” stated Janna Jensen of close by Brewer. “I don’t know the way many individuals worth that.”

A New York Times-Siena College survey final month pointed to the constraints of localism — and that was earlier than the dying of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg elevated the Supreme Courtroom and points like abortion rights.

Fifty % of Mainers stated nationwide points, like which social gathering controls the Senate, have been most necessary to their Senate vote, whereas 41 % stated native issues, corresponding to who can do extra for Maine, have been paramount.

A Rhode Island native, as Ms. Collins delights in noting, Ms. Gideon has made well being care the centerpiece of her marketing campaign, much more than Ms. Collins’s vote on Justice Kavanaugh.

Throughout her time within the Legislature, the Democrat pushed to increase Medicaid within the state, clashing with former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, on the difficulty.

As a lot as any particular person coverage subject, although, Ms. Gideon’s core message is {that a} vote for Ms. Collins is a vote to maintain Republicans in charge of the Senate.

“So long as Susan Collins is elected once more to the USA Senate, Mitch McConnell will once more possible be the Senate majority chief,” Ms. Gideon informed attendees at a supper close to Lewiston final month.

She repeated a model of that line in a quick interview afterward, and grew barely defensive when that was identified.

“I don’t stroll round speaking about Mitch McConnell on a regular basis,” she stated, earlier than retreating to a speaking level about what Mainers give attention to “once they sit down at their kitchen desk.”

But Ms. Gideon was extra candid on the finish of the dialog, when requested if she was pleased with the Senate contest’s turning into nationalized.

“We’re the place we’re on this nation,” she stated.

And Ms. Collins is the place she is, within the dwindling center between a celebration that loves Mr. Trump and one which loathes him.

Essentially the most steadily heard criticism of her is that she has modified, and has betrayed her average roots. Ms. Gideon has inspired this sentiment and, when requested what she had in thoughts, cited Ms. Collins’s help for the 2017 Republican tax cuts.

But Ms. Collins additionally supported George W. Bush’s equally high-end tax cuts, simply as she backed his nominees to the Supreme Courtroom.

What Maine voters typically imply once they say Ms. Collins has modified, although, is that the Republican Social gathering has modified — and by that they imply Mr. Trump.

“The social gathering has moved proper,” stated Carl Bucciantini, a retired instructor who got here to listen to Ms. Gideon. “It was conservative beneath Reagan, conservative beneath the Bushes and now it’s simply loopy.”

Ms. Collins continues to dodge the query of how she’ll vote for president, however she stated final month that she would in all probability keep away from Mr. Trump if he campaigned in Maine.

In the identical interview, carried out earlier than the dying of Justice Ginsburg, Ms. Collins stated she would oppose filling a Supreme Courtroom emptiness in October. For the reason that senator reaffirmed that view after Justice Ginsburg’s dying, Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Ms. Collins.

“I feel that Susan Collins goes to be harm very badly — her folks aren’t going to take this,” the president predicted in September, earlier than heckling her on Twitter final week for opposing the hasty court docket nomination.

Pressed as to why she by no means absolutely broke with Mr. Trump the identical manner that her heroine, former Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith, had confronted Joseph McCarthy, Ms. Collins recalled that she had helped torpedo the trouble to repeal the Inexpensive Care Act and parted methods with the president on points like his try to make use of navy cash for a border wall.

“I’ve had so many Margaret Chase Smith moments,” she stated.

The extra persuasive reply, although, got here from a supporter on the bus tour introduction who loathes Mr. Trump however stated Ms. Collins was caught in a political vise.

“She will be able to’t,” stated the supporter, Kathy Anderson, when requested why Ms. Collins wouldn’t condemn Mr. Trump. “Have a look at the demographics right here.”

Maine has at all times been cut up between its extra prosperous shoreline and its blue-collar inside. However the political and social hole has widened even additional lately.

“A variety of the folks down listed below are extra related to Napa Valley than they’re Penobscot Valley,” stated John Baldacci, a former Democratic governor of the state, who grew up in Bangor and now works in Portland.

The inflow of transplants alongside the Maine coast and the migration of working-class whites into the Republican Social gathering beneath Mr. Trump and Mr. LePage, who referred to as himself “Trump earlier than Trump,” have upended the state’s politics.

Maybe most vital, and for Ms. Collins most threatening, Mr. LePage’s consecutive plurality victories prompted Maine to enact ranked-choice voting. On this system, voters rank their desire on the poll in order that those that obtain few first-place votes are eradicated and the eventual winner garners a majority.

Because of this the votes of these supporting a liberal unbiased candidate, Lisa Savage, can in the end go to Ms. Gideon if Ms. Savage’s backers listing Ms. Gideon as their second selection.

It’s a big shift in a state with an extended custom of independence.

Maine has elected two unaffiliated governors within the final half-century and in 1992 handed Ross Perot greater than 30 % of the vote, his greatest exhibiting of any state. Now, although, it has the identical red-and-blue divide as the remainder of the nation — and the outdated outlines of its political map have been redrawn.

Republicans used to run up a few of their greatest margins in rich enclaves alongside the Atlantic, whereas Democrats constantly fared greatest in immigrant-heavy and union-organized mill cities additional inland.

Maps from the final two main elections, the 2016 presidential contest and the 2018 governor’s race, reveal a near-unbroken stretch of Democratic blue up the Atlantic Coast from Kittery to Bar Harbor.

There are successfully two states — one working class and extra pro-Trump, and the opposite extra upscale and deeply contemptuous of the president — that Ms. Collins should bridge.

They might be seen within the Trump garden indicators sprouting up throughout inland Maine and the ubiquity of Biden indicators practically wherever saltwater is within the air.

Again on Ms. Collins’s bus, she concluded an interview by recalling that in 2008 she “solely misplaced eight communities in your entire state.”

However as soon as she stepped into the workplace of an oil heating firm to handle staff, she returned to the current.

“The nation is so polarized and Maine is, too, sadly,” Ms. Collins stated.





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