Pulse Newsletter: Chaos Reigns As Campaigns Enter Home Stretch

Oct 9, 2020

There’s less than a month left before Election Day on Nov. 3, and the four candidates in the U.S. Senate contest in Maine are making their final pitch to voters.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is trying to keep the race local, a task made difficult by a looming Supreme Court battle, President Donald Trump nuking both COVID relief talks and the stock market via tweet, more presidential tweets ripping Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after the feds foiled a plot to kidnap and harm her.

Democratic challenger Sara Gideon targets Collins about her votes for conservative judges and the threat to the Affordable Care Act as she fends off more attacks by the National Republican Senatorial Committee over allegations involving a former Democratic state lawmaker.

Independent candidate Lisa Savage continues to tout the benefits of ranked-choice voting and Medicare for All.

And independent Max Linn released a campaign video in which he cracked a PBR tall boy after verifying his gender pronouns.

The whipsaw of events this week are the beginning of what promises to be a hectic and chaotic final stretch for the presidential race and the congressional contests.

Political operatives sometimes say campaigns are won at the end and lost at the beginning. So now is the time for the candidates’ closing arguments.

Maine Public will play some role in that process when it hosts its U.S. Senate debate at the Augusta Civic Center on Thursday. It will also hold debates on Oct. 20 for the 1st Congressional District race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Republican challenger Jay Allen, as well as an Oct. 21 debate for the 2nd District race between U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and Republican challenger Dale Crafts.

Additionally, the Maine Calling talk show continues to conduct interviews with all the congressional candidates. You can listen to the Senate candidate interviews and read their profiles at mainepublic.org/yourvote. The candidates for the U.S. House have profiles available on that page, and the Maine Calling interviews will take place next week at 11 a.m.:

Tuesday: Republican Jay Allen Wednesday: Republican Dale Crafts Thursday: Democrat Chellie Pingree Friday: Democrat Jared Golden

Maine Dems sign troll

Collins is trying to put as much distance as she can between her and Trump.

She won’t say whether she’s voting for him.

But depending on where you travel in the state, the distance between her and the president varies, at least on campaign paraphernalia. For example, if you drive around Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, you’ve undoubtedly seen signs for the Republican ticket that say something like, “Trump, Crafts, Collins” and sometimes references to “guns” and “God.”

You won’t find many of those signs in the 1st District — just Collins signs or just Trump signs.

Not anymore.

A "TRUMP COLLINS 2020" sign, right, paid for by the Maine Democratic Party, stands alongside a "Susan Collins our senator" sign, paid for by the Maine Republican Party, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, in Freeport, Maine. Sen. Collins, R-Maine, is being challenged by Democrat Sara Gideon.
Credit Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

Recently, signs mentioning the two candidates together have been spotted in southern Maine. After an exhaustive investigation it turns out that these signs are actually paid for by the Maine Democratic Party.

(Actually, it says they’re paid for by the Maine Democratic Party right on the signs. The disclosure is required by law.)

The Maine Republican Party calls this bit of trolling — putting Collins’ name alongside the presidential nominee of her party — a “dirty trick.”

The objective for Democrats here is pretty obvious. Trump might have a good chance of winning the 2nd Congressional District again, but he’s in serious trouble in the 1st District. Collins is also in a precarious position, but she’s outperforming the president in the latest polls. And that’s why Democrats want to drag her down by handcuffing her to the president in southern Maine.

The undecideds

They’re out there.

That’s especially true in the U.S. Senate race, although their numbers are dwindling. According to the latest polls, the undecided voters appear to be breaking evenly for Collins and Gideon, increasing the chances that neither candidate will obtain a majority on Election Day and thus forcing a ranked-choice voting runoff.

It’s not a foregone conclusion, however. Often, but not always, late undecided voters break for the incumbent candidate. That’s especially true in races where the challenger is not well known. That’s likely one reason why Republicans have been trying to frame Gideon as a “gamble” and assigning her nicknames like “sneaky Sara” and highlighting her “risky record.”

By the numbers

$66.1 million — The amount of money spent by noncandidate groups attempting to influence the Maine U.S. Senate race so far. $66.7 million — Total wages earned by restaurant and bar workers in fiscal year 2019, according to the Maine Department of Labor. $20.6 million — Amount of money spent by Hydro-Quebec and Central Maine Power opposing a ballot initiative that was removed from the 2020 ballot after the Maine Supreme Court ruled the measure unconstitutional. $6 million — The compensation fund CMP proposed last year to resolve billing disputes with customers.

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