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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Susan Collins is a consequential senator committed to the rule of law. For that reason, she has been targeted by Democrats in this election cycle.

Groups on the left have poured millions of dollars into Maine for ads that distort her record and defame her personally. In one recent month, almost 2,000 negative ads were run against Ms. Collins as part of a scorched earth campaign designed to defeat her and ruin her reputation.


But the race in Maine is about more than just Ms. Collins. She is being attacked simply because she defended the rule of law: the idea that a person is entitled to a timely trial, that facts matter, that the media and the mob are not the arbiters of truth. For that transgression alone, the left seeks to not only defeat her, but also to destroy her as an abject lesson to others who might stand up for just and equitable treatment of all.

Fortunately, Ms. Collins has withstood this sort of test before. In 1996, she won by 5 points in a year in which the Republican presidential nominee lost Maine by 21 points. In 2002, despite being targeted by the Democrats, she beat her opponent by 17 points. In 2008, another presidential election year, she outperformed President Obama by 4 points and Republican rival Sen. John McCain by 21 points and won handily. Last time out in 2014, she squeaked by with 68% of the vote.

It is telling that her opponent this time around, Speaker of the Maine House Sara Gideon, was Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s fifth choice. The national Democrats tried to recruit Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree and then Rep. Jared Golden. Then they tried to recruit former House Speaker Hannah Pingree (Chellie’s daughter) and even Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, who has a summer home in Maine.

Ms. Gideon has followed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s approach to campaigning and was rarely seen in public during the Democratic primary. She refused to participate in nearly every live Democratic debate. Ms. Gideon, a native of Rhode Island who moved to Maine only a dozen or so years ago, is so obsessive about not making a mistake that she adjourned the state legislature in March rather than stay and deal with the coronavirus. She has yet to be able to negotiate a bipartisan agreement for the legislature to return.

My own experience with Ms. Collins was during the drafting and passage of the CARES Act, in which she was the creator and advocate for the successful, innovative Paycheck Protection Program. That program, which has provided financial assistance to nearly three-quarters of Maine’s small businesses and supported more than 240,000 jobs, was remarkable specifically because it directed help and funding toward businesses that needed it the most without expanding the federal bureaucracy. By using banks as the intermediary, the program reimagined how the federal government could help in a crisis.

That’s why Ms. Gideon and the national Democrats have attacked it. Ironically, the law firm where Ms. Gideon’s husband works received a loan from the program for somewhere between $1 million and $2 million.

Ms. Collins‘ accomplishments extend well beyond the CARES Act. She has been an influential leader on national security issues as former chairwoman of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee and as a member of the Intelligence committee.

What public polling there has been in this race is sketchy. Left-leaning pollsters show Ms. Gideon with a slight lead. Internal numbers show Ms. Collins with the lead. Remember that Maine has “ranked choice voting.” Voters rank their choices and if no one gets 50% in the first round, the candidate with the lowest vote total is eliminated, and the second choices of those who voted for the eliminated candidate are counted. The process has already cost one House Republican (Bruce Poliquin) in Maine his seat. It is a system designed to be manipulated.

Ms. Collins did the right thing when it was difficult to do the right thing. If conservatives and Trump voters fail to defend her now, it is possible that in the next difficult moment, they may discover that they have no defenders.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.


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