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Since Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the nation’s top court six days ago, Maine Sen. Susan Collins has been at the center of, well, everything. Because Democrats in the Senate can’t stop the nomination – no matter who President Donald Trump picks – Collins, a noted moderate, is seen as the swingiest vote and, therefore, someone who could hold the fate of Trump’s nominee in her hands.

For more insight into how Collins is approaching this decision – and how Maine is approaching Collins’ decision, I reached out to Steve Collins (no relation), a reporter for the Lewiston Sun Journal. (Amazingly named newspaper, by the way!) Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow is below. (Also, Steve Collins is the co-founder of Youth Journalism International, a group dedicated to helping cultivate interest in journalism.)

Cillizza: What’s the mood in Maine to Collins at the moment? And does that impact in any way how she positions herself on Trump’s SCOTUS pick?

Steve Collins: Maine is a strange place politically, pretty much all the time. It has a hardcore Republican governor, Paul LePage, who’s finishing up his second and final term after out-Trumping Trump in many ways. It has one liberal and one conservative in the House. And Sen. Collins’ counterpart is an independent, Angus King, who sides with the Democrats but is a long, long way from the other independent in the Senate, Bernie Sanders. Even Maine’s legislature has one house controlled by the GOP and the other by Democrats. So Maine is a hothouse of widely differing politics.

It says something that Trump won one of Maine’s two electoral votes, because he triumphed in one congressional district while losing in the other. It’s the only district Trump won in New England.

It’s no wonder, really, that Sen. Collins has tried so hard over the years to hold onto the middle ground, because that’s ultimately where most Mainers are. But they probably lean a bit to the Democratic side. Take something like Medicaid expansion, which LePage loathes and blocked time and again. When activists got it on the ballot, Mainers voted for it by a decent margin. They’ve also voted to legalize pot, raise the minimum wage, establish a Clean Elections program and other measures that are generally more left than right. But you never know.

Heck, Sen. Collins already has a possible challenger on the Republican side to her 2020 reelection, a Trump backer named Max Linn – and at least one Democrat has already said she plans to take on Collins. There are plenty of others eyeing that seat, too.

So that’s the landscape where Collins operates, a big swirling mix of unpredictable outcomes.

There are plenty of people who are upset that Trump gets to pick another Supreme Court justice. And plenty of others who are thrilled that he does.

For Collins, it makes everything she does trickier. She wants to hold that middle in a time when the center is getting squeezed. It’s what she does, though, and she’s not going to change.

Cillizza: She turned down a somewhat sure-thing gubernatorial bid this year. Was it for opportunities like this one to be the deciding vote on a SCOTUS nominee?

Steve Collins: I never quite understood her flirtation with running for governor. I think she wanted on one level to be Maine’s first woman governor, a kind of permanent feather in her cap, and weighed whether she wanted to be closer to home, including [to] her elderly parents.

But you know, Sen. Collins just loves be a senator. She may not like some of the zaniness that goes on there these days, but she adores being part of its long history of deliberation and decisions. So, yes, I think having the chance to be at the center of issues like a Supreme Court nominee is a big reason she stayed put. If she didn’t like the spotlight that comes with it, she’d hide out like her more timid colleagues instead of grabbing many opportunities to take the national stage and talk about how she thinks. The governor’s mansion may just have been too small a stage for somebody who’s seen the bright lights for so long.

Cillizza: How plugged in are Mainers to the court fight – and to Collins’ role in it?

Steve Collins: Putting aside those who rarely pay attention anything political, Maine’s pretty hyped about the court fight. There are strong views on both sides. Many want to see a court that would reverse Roe v. Wade and want Collins to help it happen. Others are hoping her oft-stated pro-choice position will carry her into opposition to Trump’s selection to succeed Anthony Kennedy. On both sides, the focus is almost entirely on Collins. It’s as if Angus King doesn’t even exist when these issues arise. Susan Collins is on everyone’s mind – and she knows it.

And it’s only going to get more heated.

Fortunately, though, we live in a place where we can chill out at the shore, eat a lobster or two and remember there’s more to life than the squabbles in DC.

Cillizza: Collins voted for Neil Gorsuch. Is there any reasonable expectation that if Trump picks a Gorsuch-like nominee Collins won’t do the same?

Steve Collins: There is no way Sen. Collins would vote against a Gorsuch-like appointee unless he or she made the monumental mistake of uttering public hostility to the Roe decision or somehow indicated clearly that a personal opposition to abortion would play into a legal ruling.

She has voted for every nominee since she arrived in the Senate in 1997, people with ideologies as widely diverse as Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor. She is serious when she says, over and over through the years, that she wants justices who have the experience, temperament and respect for settled law that she does. As long as somebody seems judicial and doesn’t have an outlandish track record, I can’t imagine Sen. Collins would vote against them. It’s not a left-right thing for her, it’s just the simple reality that she believes that as long as a President picks someone who seems like they belong on the Supreme Court, she will go along with the choice. For Democrats, that’s a problem today, but she made the same calculations when then-President Barack Obama put forth his picks.

Cillizza: Finish this sentence: “The chances that Susan Collins votes against Donald Trump’s SCOTUS nominee are _____________%.” Now, explain.

Steve Collins: If President Trump picks someone mainstream for the seat, the chances are virtually zero that she will vote “no.” But given that the President is, how shall we put this, unpredictable, there is a possibility Sen. Collins will wind up opposed.

However, if Gorsuch is an indication of the President’s thinking on the matter, then it seems pretty darn certain that he will find somebody that passes muster with Maine’s senior senator.