Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins is among a small number of centrist senators who could determine whether Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed.
Collins is still undecided, and the weeks-long pressure campaign to convince her to vote against Kavanaugh has intensified with demonstrations, calls and emails flooding her local and D.C. offices. This week the interest in her decision reached a fever pitch following the gripping hearing with Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexually assaulting in the 1980s.
In some ways, the scene near Sen. Collins' Portland office Friday was like so many others over the past several weeks: a throng of anti-Kavanaugh protesters, about 200 in all, spilled into the street outside.
But this — in the immediate aftermath of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing — was different.
Sarah Skillin Woodard took the bullhorn to express frustration that Ford's heart-wrenching testimony may not have been enough to persuade Collins to oppose Kavanaugh.
“I am shaking mad,” she told the crowd. “I am ... furious. How many of you are furious?”
Woodard leads a progressive group that recruits and trains women candidates, but she wasn't the only one with strong reactions to the hearing.
The topic, alongside Collins's pending decision on Kavanaugh, dominated Maine Public Radio's daily talk show, Maine Calling, on Friday, during which several callers voiced their confidence, or lack thereof, in the senator. And reactions to the hearing and expectations for Collins carried into the weekend.
Collins announced Friday that she supports a last-minute move by the Senate to request a limited FBI investigation into Ford's allegations.
But the announcement provided small comfort to Topsham resident Dulcie Whitman, who was shopping Saturday on Maine Street in Brunswick. Whitman has never voted for Collins, but she's previously been content with the belief that Maine's senior senator at least considers both sides of an issue before voting. Now, Whitman hopes Collins will consider how a yes vote on Kavanaugh will affect her if she seeks reelection in 2020 and, if she doesn't run, how the vote will affect her political legacy.
"I guess I'm hoping that she can hear that her voting yes not only is going to have an effect on individuals, but I'm hoping she hears that it's going to have an effect on her politically,” Whitman said.
Others say that they still feel they can support Collins.
"She's done a better job than 90 percent of the other senators, so I'm very happy with that,” said John Kistenmacher, of Brunswick. Kistenmacher has long supported Collins, even though he says he's more conservative than she is.
“I mean, she doesn't always vote the way I want her to, but she votes the way Maine wants her to, which is what her job is,” he said.
But for Collins, divining Mainers' wishes has never been more difficult and the pressure on her rarely so intense or sustained.