Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has well below 50% support in a pair of new polls released this week, showing just how precarious her reelection bid is weeks before voters decide her political fate in the toughest campaign of her career.
Collins’ Democratic challenger, Maine state House Speaker Sara Gideon, currently holds 49% to the senator’s 44%, according to a new poll released Friday from The New York Times and Siena College, results that are within the poll’s sampling error margin.
The survey’s finding is far tighter than a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week showing Gideon with a wide, 54% to 42% advantage over Collins.
The polls underscore how high the stakes are for Collins with just under 50 days until the election. Her race is regarded as one of the most competitive Senate races this cycle. The senator’s expensive competition against Gideon could prove to be a make-or-break moment for her four-term career in the chamber.
Maine will be using ranked choice voting in this year’s Senate contest. There are two independent candidates running for the Senate seat in addition to Collins and Gideon. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, votes from the fourth place candidate would be reallocated to their second choice candidate, and then from the third place candidate, if needed, until one candidate has more than 50% support. Both polls suggest Gideon is closer to hitting that mark than Collins.
Running for reelection in a state President Donald Trump narrowly lost in 2016, Collins is balancing the need to appeal to the President’s base – whom she also needs to turn out for her – against not further alienating moderate and independent voters. The New York Times and Siena College poll also showed a Democratic upper hand in the presidential election, with former Vice President Joe Biden holding a wide 55% to 38% lead over Trump among Maine voters.
On Friday, Collins rolled out two endorsements from Republican governors in blue states, a move that further highlights how critical the election is given the fact that the governors rarely issue endorsements for candidates outside of their own respective states.
Republican Govs. Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts both voiced their support for Collins’ bid for a fifth term in two separate 15-second ads in which they highlighted her willingness to work across party lines and serve as an independent representative of her state in the Senate.
“Maine has a long history of independent-thinking leaders, and Susan Collins is exactly the kind of independent, thoughtful and effective leader that we desperately need in the Senate,” Hogan says in one of the ads. “As governor of Maryland, I can appreciate that. I urge you to reelect Susan Collins.”
“As governor of Massachusetts, I work with both parties to get things done. Susan Collins does that in the Senate,” Baker says in his ad. “She’s pro-environment, pro-women, pro-Maine. We need more leaders like Susan. I hope you reelect her.”
Given their positions in more liberal leaning states, both Hogan and Baker occupy a particular spot in national Republican politics. Hogan has made headlines throughout Trump’s presidency for breaking with or publicly clashing with the President – particularly on the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Baker has also publicly criticized Trump, and one poll over the summer found that 89% of likely Democratic primary voters in Massachusetts approve of the job Baker is doing.
In a third 30-second spot, both Hogan and Baker, as well as former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent and former Democrat, stump for Collins, urging Mainers to reelect her this November.
Collins and Gideon faced off during a debate in Maine last week in which the senator said Trump “should have been straightforward with the American people” about the threat from the coronavirus. When Gideon challenged Collins on who she thinks should be “leading the country,” the senator did not answer, saying the Maine people don’t need her advice.
CNN’s Jennifer Agiesta and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.